A policy supporting Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning (LGBTQ) would help all students feel safer said Nelson and District Teachers’ Federation reps who appeared before Kootenay Lake School Board.
“Not to have a policy around this is just wrong,” said Karin Hawkin, social justice chair with the NDTA. “We need a policy for those who are vulnerable.”
As an ally in the school environment, teacher Hawkin told the board at their regular February 4 meeting that she witnesses a stigma that still exists.
“I do hear terms like ‘gay’ or ‘fag’ on a regular bases and if it’s offensive to me, how do you think someone who is LGBTQ feels?” she asked.
“I don’t think things are unbearable,” she continued. “Things are improving in society. We need to bring that into the schools — be the change.”
A 2011 report issued by Egale Canada Human Rights Trust surveyed over 3,700 students from across the country over a two-year period ending in June 2009. It concluded that bullying of LGBTQ students is a serious issue that schools need to address.
Of LGBTQ students participating, 74 per cent reported being verbally harassed about their gender expression and more than one in five LGBTQ students reported being physically harassed or assaulted due to their sexual orientation.
Conversely, 80 per cent of LGBTQ students from schools with anti-homophobia policies reported never being physically harassed versus only 67 per cent of LGBTQ students from schools without anti-homophobia policies. Similarly, 46 per cent of LGBTQ students with policies reported never being verbally harassed versus 40 per cent of LGBTQ students from schools without anti-homophobia policies.
The study found that LGBTQ students are also often victims of rumours or lies and often feel unsafe and alone without support.
This isn’t the first time that the issue has come before the Kootenay Lake school board. In 2009, trustees were asked to consider a policy addressing homophobia and transphobia in schools. At that time, six boards had policies. Today, of BC’s 60 school boards, 27 have policies addressing this issue.
NDTA’s Becky Blair said she understands policy development can be slow going. She urged the district to have something out for public feedback by the end of they year.
“Take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim,” said Blair.