We have a similar problem in the Ontario school system. Many -- while they may in principle support the "inclusion" or "tolerance" of LGBTQ issues -- do not actively foster and implement lessons, resources and ways of doing business that work towards the eradication of the treatment of LGBTQ staff and students like second-class citizens. Even though we have documentation to support said work! Why just recently I was told -- by a school leader no less -- to be patient, that it was a slow process, but that change would come, eventually, we just had to be patient. Rather than recognizing my precarious political, professional and personal position as a queer person interested in LGBTQ rights for myself and my students, I was invited to personally spearhead a GSA or other work at the school.
I wonder if he would have said that to me were I expressing my impatience and concern with the equal treatment of blacks, or suggesting that we had to make some changes to allow for accessibility for someone in a wheelchair (especially if I myself were in a wheelchair)?
I have to tell you, as someone who has spent 43 years being called a dyke, fag, homo while first suppressing who I was and then making the decision not to lie to myself or my children (I had become a mother in the meantime) any longer, and watching students continue to bully others based on the grounds of gender identity or sexual orientation, but being afraid to do anything truly useful about it out of fear of what my parents, colleagues or bosses might say, and then starting to finally explore some more inclusive curriculum practices while coming out of the closet myself and beginning to be the teacher that some students choose to come to for help, but still not being sure how best to help them... I'm done with waiting patiently for a magical end to the discrimination!
Equity does not miraculously fall from the sky and into our laps after a pre-determined allotment of minutes/hours/decades has been patiently waited out by those most oppressed. We have to fight for it tooth and nail, as history has shown over and over and over again in countless contexts.
LGBTQ equity is just the latest suffrage or civil rights movement. We already have laws in place that tell us teaching LGBTQ issues is our job. Let's start DOING IT already!
SUPPORT FOR THE RIGHT/RESPONSIBILITY TO TEACH LGBTQ ISSUES AS PART OF A COMPREHENSIVE SOCIAL JUSTICE APPROACH:
- United Nations Convention Against Discrimination in Education (1960)
- United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1989)
- United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (1948)
- Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (1982)
- Ontario Human Rights Code
"recognize the dignity and worth of every person and to provide for equal rights and opportunities without discrimination"
- Ontario Education Act (1990)
"a strong public education system is the foundation of a prosperous, caring, civil society"
- Ontario College of Teachers, Foundations of Professional Practice (2008)
“OCT members honour human dignity, emotional wellness and cognitive development. In their professional practice, they model respect for spiritual and cultural values, social justice, confidentiality, freedom, democracy and the environment”
- Ontario Ministry of Education, Finding Common Ground: Character Development in Ontario Schools, K-12 (2008)
"Teachers will...assist in creating a school culture that values caring relationships between teachers and students, fosters a sense of belonging, nurtures democratic principles and encourages student voice in decision making.”
From the Ontario Ministry of Education 2009 document Realizing the Promise of Diversity: Ontario’s Equity and Inclusive Education Strategy:
“As an agent of change and social cohesion, our education system reflects the democratic values of fairness, equity and respect for all...We strive to achieve a truly equitable and inclusive publicly funded education system in keeping with our values of human rights and social justice”.
Inclusive education is defined as “education that is based on the principles of acceptance and inclusion for all students. Students see themselves reflected in their curriculum, their physical surroundings and the broader environment, in which diversity is honoured and all individuals are respected”.
The following Anti-Discrimination Education Statement is found in all Ministry of Education Curriculum Documents:
The implementation of anti-discrimination principles in education influences all aspects of school life. It promotes a school climate that encourages all students to work to high standards, affirms the worth of all students, and helps students strengthen their sense of identity and develop a positive self-image. It encourages staff and students alike to value and show respect for diversity in the school and the wider society. It requires schools to adopt measures to provide a safe environment for learning, free from harassment, violence, and expressions of hate. Antidiscrimination education encourages students to think critically about themselves and others in the world around them in order to promote fairness, healthy relationships, and active, responsible citizenship.
The Ontario Ministry of Education, Accepting Schools Act states:
The people of Ontario and the Legislative Assembly:
- Believe that students need to be equipped with the knowledge, skills, attitude and values to engage the world and others critically, which means developing a critical consciousness that allows them to take action on making their schools and communities more equitable and inclusive for all people, including LGBTTIQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, two-spirited, intersex, queer and questioning) people
- Recognize that a whole-school approach is required, and that everyone — government, educators, school staff, parents, students and the wider community — has a role to play in creating a positive school climate and preventing inappropriate behaviour, such as bullying, sexual assault, gender-based violence and incidents based on homophobia, transphobia or biphobia
My school board has the following policies; yours may have similar policies.
Find them! Read them! Know them!
- Policy # 51 Human Rights Policy
- Policy # 54 Equity and Inclusive Education Policy
Our Board, in an effort to accommodate various religious beliefs, has in the past made exemptions with regards to participation in certain events. Some fundamentalist groups have used this to try to promote their intolerance with their children and others by boycotting and pulling their children from participating in school activities such as Day of Pink. Currently, our board holds the following position on exemption requests made around human rights/LGBTQ/Anti- Homophobia/Transphobia Education:
"In light of the Human Rights Code, Ministry and Board policy/expectations, Peel District School Board will no longer approve or accept exemption requests for students to be removed from human rights/ LGBTQ’ anti-homophobia/transphobia curriculum. Schools are required to create safe and respectful classrooms and this can only be done when all students know that teasing, bullying, name calling and all other forms of discrimination because of sexual orientation, gender and gender expression are not acceptable and are against the law. Further, for students to feel a sense of belonging and inclusion in the school and classroom, they must see themselves reflected positively in the curriculum. So students who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, two-spirited, intersex and or who come from same sex families, must see themselves and their lived experiences reflected in the curriculum. Therefore, in Peel Board it is acceptable and expected that educators will use approaches and materials that explore identities of sexual orientation, gender and gender expression and engage students and the school community in activities such as Day of Pink, Day of Silence and other activities that support and promote anti-homophobia and anti- transphobia.
I hope this discussion has been helpful for those still wondering if it is their job to embed LGBTQ stuff into their teaching practice.
Feel free to download and print the bookmarks to the right -- keep one on hand, and share the other three with a colleague, parent or administrator!