I’m in Newfoundland, working with Egale Canada delivering training to Principals, Vice Principals and Guidance Counselors on creating LGBTQ Safe Spaces (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Questioning) in the province’s Junior and Senior High Schools.
It’s groundbreaking and history making – and it’s amazing that Minister Clyde Jackman is on board (on a side note, I met him last week and was so impressed by his authenticity and passion for this topic).
One of the discussions that comes up often is how to do this in the face of religious beliefs that are not accepting.
What we say over and over again is that creating schools that are LGBTQ safe is not about changing beliefs (although that can be a by-product) but about schools’ expectations for behaviour and actions that support respect and inclusion for all students.
This can be tough for some people, but it’s not an educators place to share their beliefs -their job is to teach curriculum. And infusing LGBTQ issues into the curriculum is part of creating LGBTQ safe schools (as is intervention when bullying or harassment occurs and creating a culture of inclusion). LGBTQ people need to see their lives and realities within the curriculum from K-12, just as much as anyone else. It impacts self-esteem and engagement, to name a few positive results – as well as helping to encourage respect and awareness. Plus it’s not just LGBTQ students who experience homophobic and transphobic bullying in schools, but also those who are perceived to be.
Interestingly, I came across an article on the weekend – a student who wore a t-shirt to school that said “Life is Wasted without Jesus” in Nova Scotia and was suspended after several students complained (and a few warnings). Here’s an excerpt: “Superintendent Nancy Pynch-Worthylake says that students are allowed to express their beliefs in a way that doesn’t criticize others.” Bingo. You can read the whole article by clicking on the link above to the word article.
You can believe whatever you want, but when your actions infringe on another person’s human rights, we have a problem.
Kudos to Minister Jackman (my new hero) and the Newfoundland and Labrador Department of Education who have taken the Egale Report on Homophobia and Transphobia in Canadian Schools seriously, and are committed to creating safer schools across their province!
copyright 2012 Annemarie Shrouder
Author, Speaker and Facilitator on issues of diversity and inclusion