LGBT Equality Battle in An Unusual Place – Burnaby, B.C., Canada

I have to admit up front that my daughter has attended public school in Burnaby for nearly four years now and while I have my qualms with this school district (hint, she has not made it through a single year where her teacher did not take an extended leave of absence… but I digress), their proposed policy of teaching tolerance on the topic of homophobia is not one of them. The same week that Gallup found 53% of Americans are in favor of legal recognition for same sex couples, Canada’s most liberal province is embroiled in an embarrassing battle over anti-gay discrimination in the school system.

Parents who oppose a draft homophobia-heterosexism policy for Burnaby public schools are planning another rally tomorrow outside district offices.

The organizers, who call their group The Parents’ Voice, say growing numbers of students, parents and other taxpayers are worried that the board of education developed policy 5.45 to serve the political interests of some activist teachers and their union rather than students.

“It is now evident that health professionals, religious leaders and members of Burnaby’s faith communities were deliberately excluded from the committee that developed draft policy 5.45,” they say in a news release. “Parents’ Voice … has learned that the ‘ad-hoc advisory committee’ was comprised exclusively of LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning) activists and their allies.”

They say the policy encourages discrimination against those who hold different opinions about homosexuality and heterosexism.

Draft policy 5.45 imposes mandatory re-education of a specific sexual doctrine by embedding these teachings into the day-to-day curriculum.    This effectively removes any avenue available to parents to exempt their child from the curriculum. Parents, not educational authorities, decide whether, how and when a child will be taught about certain sexual education doctrines.

First off, “mandatory re-education?” Seriously? By the way, this does not remove “any avenue available to parents to exempt their child from the curriculum,” you could simply send your child to a private school or leave the district.

Sadly, the good folks at The Parents’ Voice are using the last best hope for racists and bigots the world over, the claim that this new [insert progressive civil rights policy here] turns them into victims, oh and don’t forget that “health professionals” have proven “the gay” is bad.

I first learned of “draft policy 5.45” was when an unfortunate email from a “concerned parent” found it’s way into my wife’s inbox. The message seemed innocuous enough until I read the attached PDF (actually there were two one in English; “May 10 flyer to Burnaby Parents v2,” and one in Chinese; “For Our Children [Chinese]“) which contained the following:

The Burnaby School District’s aim to eradicate discrimination against one group of people is
simply displacing it to others. The draft policy labels the belief that marriage is exclusively
between one man and one woman as “perpetuating negative stereotypes and is dangerous to
individuals and communities.”

By counseling children that they and their parents hold “dangerous beliefs” is divisive to
families and family values. This a reverse form of bullying and name calling directed against
children and parents. Schools must be safe environments for all children of all beliefs.

Yea, if by protecting the abused, and discriminated against from intolerance and hate will make your life uncomfortable, sorry but deal with it.

What I find interesting is that the policy, with which I am in complete agreement, is designed to specifically address homophobic bullying that has taken place in the district. According the Burnaby School Districts policy background info on 5.45, research was conducted over a 10 month period that found:

Compared to Heterosexual Youth, LGB Youth were more likely:

  • To have experienced physical and sexual abuse, harassment in school, and discrimination in the community
  • To have reported emotional stress, suicidal thoughts, and suicide attempts In addition:
    • LGB youth felt less cared about by parents and less connected to their families than heterosexual teens, and for lesbian and bisexual females less connected to school.
    • When bisexual youth reported high family and school connectedness, their probability of suicide attempts was much lower than for bisexual youth with lower connectedness, even when they had strong risk factors for suicide.
  • “Fag talk” is rampant in our high schools.
  • Students report much more “fag talk” than teachers.
  • Students believe that teachers’ rates of intervention are low.
  • “Fag talk” is a very painful phenomenon for students – even straight students.
  • Three-quarters of LGBTQ students and 95% of transgender students felt unsafe at school, compared to one-fifth of straight students. Six-of-ten LGBTQ students reported being verbally harassed about their sexual orientation.
  • Three-quarters of all participating students reported hearing expressions such as “that’s so gay” every day in school. Half heard remarks like “faggot,” “queer,” “lezbo” and “dyke” daily.
  • Over a quarter of LGBTQ students and almost half of transgender students had skipped school because they felt unsafe, compared to less than a tenth of non-LGBTQ students.

The committee learned from students, committee members, guest presenters and articles that:

  • Homophobia and transphobia and related bullying have a negative impact on the learning environment of all school community members, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.
  • Students who don’t conform to conventional norms or stereotypes, or who are perceived to be non-heterosexual (whether they are heterosexual or not) experience homophobic bullying.
  • Students whose families have the same gender parents or care-givers experience bullying.
  • LGBTQ students need to see LGBTQ people represented amongst the diverse spectrum of people who have contributed significantly to our society.
  • LGBTQ students need to see representations of family structures in society that reflect the diversity of our community including LGBTQ family structures.
  • LGBTQ students need to feel welcome, safe and accepted as citizens in our school communities.

But hey, what’s a little abuse, fear, suicide and hate compared to making your life a bit uncomfortable by challenging your bigoted beliefs eh? I have a suggestion, if you want to go to a school where you are free to discriminate against people that are not like you I suggest you try Montgomery, Alabama in 1961.

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