OK, kiddo! Here are all the fantastically amazing posts tagged with School boards
A group calling itself the “Parental Rights in Education Defense Fund” along with an anonymous “beleaguered parent” is suing the Ontario school system for not providing advance notice of gay subject matter.
“The parent seeks nothing more than to be given advance notice so that he can [...] withdraw his children before the lesson,” the group announced on Friday.
While the press release itself didn’t mention gay issues specifically, the newly-formed group’s website obsesses over the topic almost exclusively, also establishing their opposition to “misguided” Gay-Straight Alliances, and any book written by GLBT authors.
Say, isn’t it odd that the same groups who often demand schools “teach the controversy” when it comes to learning about evolution and other scientific progresses, are so quick to censor and block other material? I spent my entire grade school education in the Catholic school system where gay topics were never discussed, probably on purpose. The only thing that withholding this information did for gay students like me was leave us uninformed and ignorant for many years before having to find out what we needed to know on our own from an uneven selection of reliable and unreliable sources.
At any rate, I want to offer a thought to this parent. Since he has chosen to sue the school board anonymously, let’s refer to him as Count Moriarty Von Jafar IV.
Mr. Moriarty Von Jafar, expose your kids to as many ideas as possible and stop presuming ownership over their minds. By all means, introduce them to your own ideas (and trust me, there’s plenty of time to teach your kids your own ideas; they don’t have to always hear your worldview first), but have the responsibility to let them discover ideas you don’t particularly like. Shielding them from a world you don’t always see eye-to-eye with is a complete impossibility, and that’s a wonderful thing. The less sheltered and more challenged a mind is, the more resilient and capable it becomes.
Ken Denike and Sophia Woo, two trustees at the Vancouver School Board, were publicly reprimanded last week after misrepresenting the school board’s anti-homophobia policy.
The trustees were already the focus of some controversy when a video surfaced online showing them talking to supporters before last November’s elections. In the video, Denike and Woo claimed that the Vancouver School Board was about to amend their anti-bullying policies with controversial new measures regarding sexual orientation, bringing it in line with a “much worse” one in Burnaby. The best way to stop this contentious policy, they said, was to vote for them.
There was a little problem with this claim, mind you: Anti-homophobia measures had been added to the Vancouver School Board’s policies on bullying seven years earlier, in 2004.
This video couldn’t have surfaced at a worse time for Denike and Woo, who were already in a bit of hot water for appearing in a separate video for the National Organization for Marriage, one of the United State’s largest and most powerful anti-gay lobby groups. In a documentary-style spot posted on the NOM website, the two trustees spoke to cameras on school board property, implying that same-sex marriage had resulted in gay pornography being shown to schoolchildren.
Uh… Same-sex marriage caused gay porn to be shown to schoolchildren? Let’s reflect a moment on the likelihood of that being true.
Well, if you’re of sound mind (NOM supporters clearly excluded), you’ve come to the correct conclusion: No such repulsiveness ever happened (nor could it; it’s absurd). In reality, a third-party website address listed in a printed teacher’s resource booklet had sponsored a provocative and sexually suggestive public service announcement intended to help increase HIV testing in the adult gay community. The web address, which was never provided to students directly, was later removed from the booklet.
To his credit, Denike claims that the National Organization for Marriage had misled him and used his expression of concerns about the teacher’s resource booklet completely out of context. (I’d say!) He later had the video pulled from NOM’s site through legal action.
Now, did Mr. Denike and Madam Woo deserve to be publicly condemned by the board for these videos? Considering they essentially lied about the board’s policy in order to get votes, I’d say that’s an appropriate action.
Denike and Woo, humbled by the censure, have since apologized for misrepresenting the school board’s policies and are now focusing on more important issues…
Nah! I’m totally kidding. Refusing to apologise, Denike actually told the media that the censure has “impacted [his] human rights” and that he’s speaking with his lawyers. Stay tuned, kids! This might be a long one.
(Hat tip to the especially amazing Ryan Clayton for the story.)
Parent’s Voice, the municipal political party whose sole purpose revolved around revoking the Burnaby District School Board’s anti-homophobia and anti-bullying policy, has been soundly defeated.
Parent’s Voice was a staunch opponent to the existing school board’s policies acknowledging GLBT students—policies that demonstrably help reduce harassment and bullying that has historically led to suicide. Thankfully, voters instead re-elected the entire city council and school board who had introduced and stood by these important policies. The highest placing of all the Parent’s Voice candidates, by contrast, came in tenth place.
This thorough rejection rather aptly demonstrates just how much of a minority these vocal opponents to equal rights and protections for GLBT people really are. Still, it’s important not to dismiss their actions as inconsequential, so I wish to congratulate all the students and supporters that helped get people out to the polls and counter the sort of nonsense that Parent’s Voice stood for.
Here’s to Burnaby’s much safer schools!
- Voters reject Parents’ Voice [Xtra Vancouver]
A new civic party has been started in Burnaby, British Columbia in direct opposition to some new anti-homophobic bullying initiatives introduced by the Burnaby School Board trustees last June.
Calling themselves Parents’ Voice, the party is in opposition to the board’s existing anti-bullying policy on gender identity and sexual orientation, which they call “homosexual propoganda.” Actually, opposition might be a bit of an understatement. The issue is the party’s entire platform, and if elected, the party is vowing to make revoking the policy their only priority.
The party is running five candidates: Homara Ahmad, Charter Lau, Helen Ward, Gordon World, and Long Xue.
Burnaby, incidentally, is the 14th school board in British Columbia to have adopted a sorely needed anti-homophobia and anti-bullying policy. While it’s important that these board policies remain in place, there is work underway to get the provincial government to adopt a consistent, province-wide policy. If that’s something you’d like to support, today is the last day to participate in the Purple Letter Campaign, so I encourage you to check it out!
- School gay policy sparks parents’ civic party [Burnaby Now]
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!
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!
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.
The Ottawa-Carleton District School Board is handing out surveys to each of its students in grades 7 to 12, asking—among other things—whether or not they’re gay.
The survey, which is not anonymous, specifically asks “How do you identify your sexual orientation?” The offered choices include: “Bisexual, Gay (male), Heterosexual (straight), Lesbian (female), Queer, Questioning, Transsexual, Two-spirited,” and “Prefer not to disclose.”
The school board says that knowing the diversity of students will help them correlate it with other data and decide which support avenues and other programs are required.
Well, their heart’s in the right place, even if their brain is locked in a committee meeting room, sipping coffee below buzzing fluorescent lights, contemplating even more excruciatingly dull forms for other people to suffer through.
Here’s my beef with the survey question. Even if every student answers honestly—and they won’t; I wouldn’t have in grade 7—it doesn’t take a survey to conclude that there are gay students in the system that have unique needs to be addressed through support programs. Gay people represent a consistent proportion of the population, they generally have a harder time fitting in at school, they’re more likely to be bullied, and they very much dislike filling out stupid forms. Help ‘em out, Ottawa-Careton District School Board!
A school in rural Mississippi has cancelled the school prom rather than letting a lesbian student bring her same-sex partner.
Constance McMillen said she approached her school’s administration about taking her date to the prom and wearing a dashing tuxedo, but was told that the two must attend separately, be accompanied by “guys,” wear dresses, and refrain from dancing together. When McMillen refused these conditions, the school cancelled the prom altogether—for everyone.
Say, this is just like the time back in grade 1 when I took my ultra-gay He-Man
dolls action figures home rather than let my friend Matthew play with them. Except now it’s over a prom with an entire school board’s administration staff, some formal written policies, harsh sanctions, and a pending lawsuit from the ACLU. Other than that, it’s pretty close though.
As for what Constance McMillen thinks of the whole thing, here’s what she told the media: “I want my prom experience to be the same as all of the other students—a night to remember with the person I’m dating.”
Good on ya, Constance!
- Hearing set in lesbian teen’s suit to force prom [Associated Press]
Sacred Heart of Jesus, a Catholic school in Boulder, Colorado, has kicked out a student after a year of preschool for having lesbian parents.
While an anonymous staffer revealed that the school itself is furious with the decision, the archdiocese is quite content with themselves. In an official statement, they said that booting the child from classes was simply a board-wide policy: “No person shall be admitted as a student in any Catholic school unless that person and his/her parent(s) subscribe to the school’s philosophy.”
Punishing children with expulsion because of the sexual orientation of the parents may be malicious, uncaring, and very un-Jesus-like, but, hey, that’s Catholic schools for you. As a private institutions they’re likely well within their right to behave as unethically as they like.
Not a very good place to send a child, come to think of it.
I managed to survive my entire gradeschool education in the Catholic system, but it wasn’t pretty. Who knew that escaping that awful institution could have been so easy? If only I pretended my parents were gay!
- Catholic school boots student with gay parents [Associated Press]
- Gay couple’s child denied re-enrollment at Catholic school [9News.com]
The St. Albert Catholic School Board has fired a transgendered substitute teacher for being, well, transgenered.
The teacher’s union representing Mr. Jan Buterman has filed a human rights complaint over the firing, with incontrovertible evidence of workplace discrimination. “Since you made a personal choice to change your gender,” a letter received from the school board to Mr. Buterman reads, “we have to remove you from the substitute teacher list.” The letter adds that “the teaching of the Catholic Church is that persons cannot change their gender.”
Gee, they sure go through a lot of trouble to make sure students never have contact with any GLBT role models. I mean, can you imagine what would happen to the students if that were to happen? Surely one shudders at the very thought!
Say… You know, the name of the school board sounds awfully familiar to me… Oh, that’s right! It’s the one in which I spent my entire grade school education. Funny, I still turned out gay.
Now, normally religious institutions are exempt from following human rights laws, but the St. Albert Catholic School Board is publicly funded which throws a bit of a kink into that argument. I don’t know how this human rights complaint will turn out, mind you. Alberta technically does not recognize transgendered individuals in its human rights legislation (and consequently tramples over them whenever possible), but I would hope that either the board follows the same, respectful antidiscrimination laws that other publicly funded institutions are required to follow, or find private sources of funding.
(Hat tip to Mercedes Allen for the story. Read more over at Dented Blue Mercedes.)
The Vancouver Board of Education has outlined rules in which parents may pull their students out of class due to familial religious beliefs. In a formal policy, the board said that while parents may request that students be pulled out of lessons dealing with gay issues in Health class, this does not apply to other classes—and any missed material still must be learned through either home instruction or self-directed studying.
Some parents have expressed concern that these regulations are too strict and infringe upon parental rights to pass personal values onto their children. I don’t believe that’s the case here; parents are absolutely free to teach what they believe to their children. The issue, instead, is whether parents have the right to censor the curriculum taught at school and prevent students from hearing parts of controversial topics that parents disagree with.
Having gone through a Catholic school system where gay issues were never addressed, I know what it’s like to be in the dark on gay health issues and have personally felt the effects of a blind-eye to homophobic bullying. Independent of what parents choose to teach their children at home, it’s extremely important that these are dealt issues with in schools. Gay students exist and often do not feel they can ask questions that concern them directly for fear of outing themselves.
The Vancouver Board of Education is right. These programs do not infringe upon or contradict parental rights, and should not be censored. Violence and harassment are never acceptable, regardless of one’s beliefs on homosexuality, and preventing the distribution of health information to those that require it would be irresponsible.
- No skipping gay-friendly classes, schools tell parents [Vancouver Sun]
The Mission Public School District in B.C. has banned an anti-homophobia poster from all of its staff rooms for the second time in two years. The poster, which was to be displayed in locations only visible to staff members, featured a gloved hand holding a medical syringe accompanied by the tag line “homosexuality is not an illness.”
Randy Huth, the Director of Instruction for the school district, said the poster was “graphic,” adding that it visually depicted substance abuse and homosexuality. Huth said that even though students were unable to view it, it was “inappropriate—even for staff too.”
Lauren Gosselin, a spokesperson for the Fondation Émergence who designed the poster, was surprised by Randy’s interpretation:
[Substance abuse] is not what we were aiming for when we were designing the poster. The message that we want to send out is basically a very simple one: homosexuality is not a disease, period.
I’m inclined to believe the poster designers. Substance abuse isn’t mentioned anywhere in the poster text and I’m not really sure that injection drug users use sterile gloves more than, say, nurses.
Incidentally, this is not the first time the Mission Public School District has banned an anti-homophobia poster. Last year, it pulled posters featuring a newborn wearing a hospital bracelet with the word “homosexual,” accompanied by the text “Sexual orientation is not a choice.”
- Mission bans gay posters in schools [Xtra West]
Less than one year after the Nova Scotia Teacher’s Union scolded the Halifax Regional School Board for asking teachers if they’re gay, the union is doing the exact same thing.
Now, before you all exclaim something like “Gee whiz, talk about the pot calling the kettle tacky and unfit to grace any self-respecting gay man’s kitchen!” this survey is different. As union president, Mary-Lou Donnelly, put it:
[The survey is] more to gather information on perceptions, on resources that are available in the schools, on what we can identify in our schools that help our educators or our students or that are lacking in our schools. It’s not about identification of individuals at all.
Well, I gotta admit, this is a far better approach than the Halifax School Board’s mandatory and personally-identifiable survey. That survey was an ill-advised attempt at appearing concerned for gay staff after being fined for an appalling, gay-related human rights violation. But, still, after that fiasco, what kind of responses are they expecting, precisely? “Yeah, I can be fired based on my sexual orientation and wrongfully investigated for child molestation, but hey—the coffee here is not too shabby!”
- Teachers union conducting blind sexual orientation survey [Chronicle Herald]
The Toronto District School Board sent out a new student census last week, and it includes that age-old question of academic relevance: You gay or what?
The survey results will be compared with the student’s grades and achievements at the end of the year. The whole thing is supposed to help the board better understand diversity and student needs.
As for my thoughts… Back in high school, I was so deep in the closet that I’m still finding socks stuck to me with static now and then. Let’s just say my grades and achievements wouldn’t have been counted in the right pile. Well, OK; perhaps if the school board found it as obvious as everyone else…
- Student census: a question of orientation [CBC News]
Remember the obsessively anti-gay lobby group Defend Traditional Marriage and Family? (They’re the ones who publicly demanded that a non-religious counseling centre stop providing meeting space to a gay rights group.) Well, now they’re pestering candidates for their local public school board with homophobic questionnaires!
Kitchener candidate, Rob McNeil, said he was baffled by the “irrelevant and offensive” survey:
There was no question of value on it. It just blew my mind because there are so many other important issues going on. There’s school safety, there’s the balanced school day. This is a questionnaire based only on how I stand on the gay rights issue—which, to me, has nothing to do with “can you balance a set of books at the school board?”
Well, that’s the thing with the “pro-family” lobby, isn’t it? They’re one-issue folks. You could be a pointy, baby-eating vampire robot and still win their endorsement, so long as you’re anti-gay. Heck, they’re so one-issue that they’ve got more gay-related material on their website than I do!
Incidentally, only 1 of the 6 candidates ended up receiving an endorsement. According to the group’s newsletter, that candidate didn’t agree with many of their views on gays—but he was the only to actually return the survey.
A more gay-friendly curriculum would directly cause student absenses and a “loss of confidence in the community,” according to Heather Stilwell, a Surrey School Board trustee. (Holy crap, can you imagine? Our children will learn nothing!)
The bizarre comments came after the education ministry delivered letters to the school board, demanding adherence to the Alternative Delivery Policy. The policy outlines circumstances in which a parent may withdraw their child from classes, and baselessly withdrawing students from classes discussing gay role models isn’t one of them. As you can guess, that sent Stilwell off the deep end:
Parents will arrange dentist and doctor appointments during class times if the education ministry orders districts to enforce its alternative curriculum. What [the policy] will force them to do is lie. There’ll be a loss of confidence in the community.
Good heavens! So, there you have it. Hide, children. Skip classes. The school board demands it—for the good of society!
Using the phrase “that’s so gay” to mean “that’s horrible” has become unacceptably common, the Greater Victoria School District announced last month. And now they’re doing something about it!
Armed with the slogan “That’s so gay is not OK,” school trustees launched a campaign aimed at getting students to think about what they say. Sara Bisson, a grade 11 student, agrees with the plan and thinks students don’t always realise they’re being hurtful.
They don’t really mean it in a homophobic way, it’s just said in a derogatory way and if you confront someone and say, “do you realize what you’re saying,” they usually say, “oh, but I didn’t mean it like that.”
Regardless of how successful the program turns out to be, it’s a positive step. Now, if only we could get the anti-gays to realise that “you’re evil and God hates you” is also irrationally hateful, we’d be all set!