OK, kiddo! Here are all the fantastically amazing posts tagged with Gay-straight alliances
I admit it. I jumped the gun with my Congratulalien last year. When the Ontario government announced that all schools—including Catholic schools—must allow the formation of student-run GLBT support groups, I took that to mean students would finally be getting Gay-Straight Alliances, a proven strategy to improve student safety and reduce instances of teen suicide due to bullying. Having endured twelve years of Catholic schooling myself, I perhaps should have been able to predict what happened instead. While students weren’t explicitly denied support groups, the Catholic school board forbade these groups from being called GSAs and continued to meddle with their direction. When students requested a GSA, they were forced to accept a strange replacement—generic support groups where any discussion of gay issues would be ostensibly halted as being not inclusive enough.
Last week, after substantial pressure (and a tad more controversy than I’d expect in this decade), the Ontario government introduced a bill that unambiguously mandates GSAs in any school where students request one. That includes the name and direction that it implies. With all indications pointing toward a speedy passage, I hope that I’m not premature in issuing a most sincere Condraculations!
The Ontario Ministry of Education has long recommended that all schools offer student-run Gay-Straight Alliances. GSAs intend to improve the lives of GLBT students, giving them positive role models, and offering a safe respite from bullying. Their benefits are also well-documented; schools with GSAs have a demonstrably lower incidence of teen suicide.
The tax-funded Catholic school boards are certainly no exception to this recommendation, but they’ve been a strangely dedicated source of resistance. In fact, not a single Catholic school in Ontario has a GSA—and students that have tried to form one have either had it shut down, or hijacked and transformed into a different kind of club altogether. It’s this latter strategy that’s becoming the norm.
That’s why, in July, I was encouraged by the Ontario government’s announcement that school boards and principals would have no say over how GSAs are run in the province. “If the students want to have a specifically dedicated group to supporting gay and lesbian and transgendered youth, they will have one,” MPP Glen Murray announced to the press. That was during the height of election campaigning, and now that the McGuinty government has been re-elected, it’s time to take a look at the progress that’s been made.
It doesn’t look good.
The Peterborough Victoria Northumberland And Clarington Catholic District School Board (That’s PVNCCDSB, for you alphabetophiles who prefer GLBTTQQIAAP to GLBT) released a tax-funded pamphlet outlining their new equity policy last week. Under the policy, GLBT support is only available in broad-based Equity Clubs, and—in a pretty blatant affront to the Glen Murray’s promise last summer—they strategically de-emphasize issues that gay students face in an attempt to appear more diverse.
So, what would a gay student expect to get out of one of the PVNCCDSB’s new clubs covered by the policy? Here’s what the pamphlet has to say about students who are seeking support related to their sexual orientation:
The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.
This kind of condescension isn’t appreciated, even when it isn’t factually incorrect. But this particular resource is a rich tapestry of contradiction. As the pamphlet notes in a column directly beside the section calling gay people “objectively disordered,” the American Psychological Association removed homosexuality from its list of recognized disorders four decades ago.
This is not delivering the support that gay students need. As long as the Catholic school board in Ontario receives tax dollars from the province, it should not be free to disobey the scientifically-sound, and government-mandated recommendations from the Ministry of Education. So, now all eyes are on the McGuinty government. Was all their talk about requiring “specifically dedicated groups” in support of GLBT youth just an empty election promise? I’ll be waiting!
(Big hat tip goes to Ann, a concerned parent with children in the PVNCCDSB, for the story.)
- The Colour of Equity [PVNCCDSB Pamphlet]
Looks like Ontario may need to go to Newfoundland for some schooling on schooling. Clyde Jackman, Newfoundland’s education minister, just announced MyGSA, a $90,000 fund to help support the establishment of Gay-Straight Alliances. And it’s available to all schools offering grades 7 to 12. Cool stuff! It’s about time tha—Hey, McGuinty! Pay attention! Is that gum?
The Coptic Orthodox Church has threatened to somehow withdraw 5000 schoolchildren from the Toronto Catholic District School Board unless the board scraps its plans to implement the government’s required tolerance and anti-homophobia policies.
Jeremiah Attaalla, a spokesperson for the sect, explained the bizarre hostage tactics to the press. “In these young grades, we don’t want teachers talking about God creating Adam and Steve; it’s Adam and Eve.”
A gross mischaracterization and a cliché all rolled into one. Impressive!
Indeed, schools adhereing to the new equity policy will not be “teaching homosexuality” as Attalla fears, since inherent traits like that can’t be taught or learned. Rather it’s about improving student life through programs proven to reduce bullying, such as gay-straight alliances.
Of course, Attaalla isn’t pleased about this prospect either. “Our members do not want gay-straight alliance groups in our Catholic schools,” he said. A strangely un-Catholic stance, since these programs have demonstrated a reduction in student distress, physical violence, and suicide.
Thankfully, it’s tough luck for Attaalla, because the Ontario government recently clarified that all decisions regarding whether or not to form LGBT support groups in publicly-funded schools rests solely with the students. The same students that he presumes to speak for.
Of course, there is another option. “We are a rich church,” Attaala continued, “so we’ll fund a new school if we have to.”
Great news! Thanks to pressure from students, the Ontario government has announced that all schools receiving public funding, including Catholic schools, must allow GLBT support groups starting this September.
“The choice to have an LGBTQ group will be the choice of students, not the choice of principals and school boards,” MPP Glen Murray announced to the press on Friday. “If the students want to have a specifically dedicated group to supporting gay and lesbian and transgendered youth, they will have one.”
GLBT support groups, such as Gay-Straight Alliances, have a proven track record of improving student safety, but Catholic schools have been fighting their formation for years. What started off as a blanket ban (a strategy that became increasingly difficult to justify as evidence of these groups’ benefits became clear), eventually turned into a kind of hijacking by Catholic administrations. Whenever a group was requested by students, it would instead be directed into strange, generic support group. Such groups would be identified as promoting diversity and being all-inclusive, but whenever issues facing gay students were brought up, discussion was halted by administration for not being “inclusive” enough—focusing on a specific segment of the student population.
With Friday’s announcement, the Ontario government has made it clear that students will get exactly the kind of peer support they need, and that the Catholic boards’ nonsense will no longer be tolerated.
Having gone through the Catholic school system for my entire grade school education, I’m thrilled! Starting this year, you’ll be getting the kind of support that I never had. Congratulations on this important step, and keep up the good fight!
Correction: In the original post, I suggested that the government’s announcement would mandate the formation of GSAs, but the announcement really only mentioned “LGBT support groups.” Regardless of the title, I take this to mean explicit support for LGBT students, and not generic anti-bullying groups (otherwise what would have been the purpose of the government’s clarification on their policy last Friday?). To me, the timing and strong wording of the announcement is a stern response to recent nonsense from the Catholic boards, but in the interest of full disclosure, until the government explicitly uses the term Gay-Straight Alliance, some people are still skeptical. Either way, the government is pushing for help. Here’s hoping all will be clarified this September!
The Burnaby School Board unanimously adopted its anti-homophobia policy last week, after months of debating and church-organized protests. A crowd of about 400 students and supporters cheered outside the Burnaby School Board offices when Kaitlin Burnett, a supporter of the policy, emerged to announce its passage.
The new policy means that public schools in the region will be made safer for any student who is—or is perceived to be—gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the country, the Toronto Catholic School Board introduced several new, gay-unfriendly amendments to its equity policy. Included among them is one that explicitly enshrines the board’s religious doctrine as taking “precedence over human rights protections,” and another that states the board will “approve only clubs which have goals that are not inconsistent with Catholic faith and the Catholic Church’s moral and doctrinal teachings” (which, in Catholic-speak, is a direct strike at the growing support for Gay-Straight Alliances in their schools—important peer support groups statistically shown to reduce bullying and increase student safety).
Having spent my entire grade school education in the Catholic system, I can vouch that it’s survivable—in the same way that Vegemite is a breakfast condiment—but things could be improved, particularly since these schools are tax funded. Until that’s no longer the case, I foresee a difficult road ahead for these sorts of amendments. What might seem like a step backwards now, could be the final straw and signal the end of this kind of nonsense for good!
An unofficial Gay-Straight Alliance at St Joseph Catholic Secondary School in Mississauga, Ontario has been forbidden from displaying any rainbows at their information booth.
The school board had already banned official Gay-Straight Alliances—important peer support groups to help reduce incidences of bullying—in their schools (thus the “unofficial” nature of this group), but apparently that didn’t go far enough. “They said rainbows were associated with Pride,” Leanne Iskander, who founded the GSA, told Xtra this week. “There’s so many other things a rainbow could be. It’s ridiculous.”
Nevertheless, the group managed to sneak in some hidden rainbows by baking cupcakes with batter in all of the rainbow’s colours. They weren’t allowed to donate the proceeds to GLBT charities like LGBT Youth Line, mind you. Instead they were forced to choose a Catholic charity. (Thankfully not Exodus, an “ex-gay” organisation which is still a registered charity in Canada, cough sign-the-petition cough, cough.)
At any rate, congratulations to Leanne and the amazing GSA! Despite the artificial and ridiculous hurdles being tossed in your way by a terrified school board, you guys rock. Keep it up!
Catholic schools in Ontario are continuing to fight gay-straight alliances from forming, despite pleas from students to allow them.
GSAs are an effective means of reducing homophobic bullying, improving student safety and decreasing the number of gay teen suicides. For this reason, the Ontario Ministry of Education has strongly recommended that all publicly funded schools include GSAs if the students request one. This recommendation is meant to include the Catholic school system which, despite being a religious organisation, is still publicly funded.
Understanding that outright bans on GSAs generate bad press, however, Catholic schools have begun adopting a new strategy to avoid acknowledging their GLBT students. When requested by students to allow the formation of a GSA, these schools launch a replacement club: One that teaches about all kinds of tolerance and diversity instead of focusing on gay issues.
Gosh that sounds just lovely and—RUN, KIDS! It’s a trap!
You see, rather than accept the most effective means to increase student safety for GLBT students, these ostensibly inclusive groups just re-enforce the discrimination that makes gay students feel so isolated in the first place.
At a GSA meeting in Mississauga, for example, the school’s principal entered unexpectedly and drew a big umbrella on the chalkboard to indicate that their club will have to talk about issues that affect everyone instead of homophobia, effectively silencing the entire school’s GLBT student body. Separately, and more troublingly, training documents for the Halton Catholic School Board’s new GSA replacement called “SIDE spaces,” declares that “gay is not an identity,” and that gay students are “immoral and sinful.”
Most of these kinds of stories aren’t even making it to the media. I’ve now received several emails from students across the country who have had their requests for a GSA turned down. An email I received just yesterday from an Ontario student highlights exactly the same sort of ineffective replacement club that these schools are foisting upon students to silence them:
Our school’s nun decided to be our [GSA] leader, but we had to change the name of the group to be inclusive of all aspects of discrimination.
Project CAT (Project Creating Awareness Together) was what our GSA became. That would have been totally fine with me, had it not been obvious that we weren’t to speak too much about homophobia in the group.
SIDE spaces, Project CAT, and large umbrellas. I could be greatly mistaken here, but something tells me this isn’t quite what the students had in mind when they requested the formation of a GSA.
The good news, though, is that students are fighting for safety, visibility, and inclusion. I like the way that Noa Mendelsohn Aviv, the program director for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, put it: “This issue is not going away,” she told the Halton Catholic School Board during their April 5th board meeting. “Students are empowered. Students know their rights. Students want gay-positive groups in their schools, and they will fight for them.”
Students are already proving Noa right. So, if you’re hoping to get a GSA formed in your school, keep fighting for it! Government organisations such as the Ontario Ministry of Education is on your side, and as long as you guys know your rights and keep up the pressure, these schools will eventually have to comply with their recommendations if they want to keep their public funding.
None of the 29 Catholic schools in Ontario have a Gay-Straight Alliance or similar support program for gay youth, according to an investigation by Xtra.
GSAs are recommended by the Ontario Ministry of Education as a means of offering support to gay students, who are frequently victimized by homophobic bullying. The publicly-funded Catholic school boards, however, have chosen to ignore this recommendation along with the needs of their students.
While school board officials deny there is a ban, some were very clear as to whether a GSA would be allowed to form in their district. “The answer would be no,” declared the superintendent of education for the Bruce-Grey Catholic District School Board.
Well, that sounds an awful lot like a ban to me.
Julien McArdle—a young activist from Gloucester, Ontario—agrees. He started an online petition earlier this month to help catch the attention of school board officials and turn up the pressure.
And if that doesn’t work, students can always request the formation of Greek Salad Aficionado clubs. Only 48% of the bishops find feta cheese morally offensive.
Flour Bluff Intermediate School—a high school in Corpus Christi, Texas—has shut down all its extracurricular clubs after a student requested the formation of a Gay-Straight Alliance, a peer support group that encourages tolerance and anti-bullying initiatives.
The insane move, which has effectively terminated otherwise unrelated clubs such as the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, was taken by the school administration as a means of banning GSAs without penalty from the Equal Access Act, which would have required the school to provide equal opportunities for student-run clubs, “regardless of their religious, political, and philosophical leanings.”
Well, I guess banning all extracurricular clubs is one way to ensure equality, Texas style!
The Halton Catholic School Board received a lot of flack this year over banning Gay-Straight Alliances—important peer support systems—in their school system. “We don’t have Nazi groups either,” a representative told the media back in January.
Gay-Straight Alliances are recommended by the Ontario Ministry of Education as a proven means of improving the life of gay youth, giving closeted teens visible role models and support, helping to eliminate homophobic bullying, and reducing instances of teen suicide.
The successes of GSAs made the Halton board’s GSA ban particularly difficult to justify. Faced with a lot of negative media attention over this and its “Nazi” remark, the Halton school board soon announced that they would be introducing a new policy.
Well, that new policy is here. On Wednesday, by a 6 – 3 vote, the school board has re-banned GSAs.
In lieu of GSAs, though, they’ve decided to set up SIDE spaces, a quickly conceived backronym that stands for Safety, Inclusivity, Diversity, and Equity. Essentially, SIDE spaces are support groups designated as safe for everyone, not just gay students.
Now, encouraging safety, inclusivity, diversity, and equity is very important, of course; all schools should do that. But let’s not lose sight of the issue here. SIDE spaces are a solution to a different problem. For a support group to be at all effective, it requires peers facing similar—if not identical—issues. Generic “everyone’s welcome!” support groups are not only an ill replacement for GSAs, they were created expressly to make a ban on GSAs more palatable by offering a substitute that ostensibly includes gay students without the visibility. Denying this visibility sends a message that GLBT students should stay hidden, and denies a place where GLBT students can discuss issues specific to them among peers who are guaranteed to be receptive.
So Boo on the Halton Catholic School Board for completely SIDE-stepping the issue.
Gay-Straight Alliances—student-run support groups—are recommended by the Ontario Ministry of Education and the American Psychological Association to provide visible support to gay youth, encourage safer schools, and help curb recent gay teen suicides. The Halton Catholic School District School Board isn’t too fond of them, however. They’ve forbidden the formation of GSAs in their schools.
Alice Anne LeMay, chair of the Catholic school board, explained the ban bluntly: “We don’t have Nazi groups either,” she told the press. “If a gay student requests a gay-straight alliance they would be denied.”
I wonder, what must it be like to play word associations with Ms. LeMay?
Me: Same-sex mar—
LeMay: (bursts into song) It’s Springtiiiime for Hiiitler and Geeermany!
All this aside… To the students in the Halton Catholic School District, I’m sorry to hear about your exceptionally stupid administration, but things will improve. Keep up the good fight; you’re not alone.
OK, this is somewhat of a diversion, but it’s a slow news day and something has been bugging me. You see, as gay-straight alliances and similar campus organisations become more and more visible, so does this hodgepodge of alphabetical nonsense: LGBTTQQI.
If my studying has paid off, this acronym stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered, Two-spirited, Queer, Questioning, and Intersexed individuals—and it’s gotta go!
I mean, surely LGBTTQQI runs contrary to the purpose of acronyms and it’s not just inclusive—it’s exhaustive! I don’t really know what “two-spirited” means (I recall it has something to do with the first nations’ beliefs on gender), I’m not sure what the difference between “transgendered” and “intersexed” is, and I can’t even explain why “queer” doesn’t manage to cover all the other letters.
Some people probably feel that they don’t fit into the more manageable GLBT classification, but if a guy like me can’t keep all these categories straight (hey, why aren’t straight allies included? LGBTTQQIS?), then surely people who don’t run anti-homophobia blogs won’t find it any more accessible.
So, please, gay-straight alliance administrators—update your websites. The TQQISFJX9R people won’t feel excluded, I promise.
Richmond Hill High School will be getting a Gay Straight Alliance after all! That, according to a great little email I received from Maya, one of the students who was fighting for the support group’s formation:
Well, we had a PTA meeting, some more news coverage, and then the administration gave in. We have a club!
The principal, Dr. Ivy Chan, had previously forbid the group from operating or distributing posters on school property, citing “entrenched views” for the ban. According to Maya, Dr. Chan attributed her change of heart to a combination of media attention and her desire to keep a good relationship with her students. Aw, what a sweet gal, that one!
Incidentally, my old high school never had a GSA. But, then again, it was a Catholic school. If they had allowed such a group, meetings would have been scheduled in the nitre-encrusted basement, where drops of holy water fall from a latin-enscribed ceiling to purify the souls of the gay. You know, or something…
OK, fine: I wish I had been brave enough to start one. Congratulations again, Richmond Hill!
Well, chalk up another victory for the folks who just aren’t comfortable with the gays! Ontario’s Richmond Hill High School has forbidden a student-run gay support group, the Gay Straight Alliance, from meeting or distributing posters on school property. The principal, Ms. Ivy Chan, cited “entrenched views” as the reason for the ban, saying “I could go ahead and be politically correct and have one, but a gay straight alliance—some people would be for it, but there would be a lot of parents who would oppose it.”
Well, it’s a good thing that disaster was narrowly avoided! And so eloquently, too. I mean, can you imagine students meeting on school property to discuss such dangerously controversial topics as tolerance? And what if they started spearheading things like safe space initiatives and organize events like the Day of Silence? Kaboom!
Ms. Chan was quick to point out she’s an inclusive person, and that a staff-initiated “Diversity Club” (which has yet to be formed) would “encompass everyone.” Though, naturally, I’d imagine no emphasis on gayness would be allowed.
Parenthetically, Richmond Hill High School has a Women in Leadership Club, a Jewish Culture Club, and eleven other school-sponsored groups. But banning those would be so last generation! Am I right, folks?