Home > Releases > Queer Ontario’s Letter to the Trustees of the Halton Catholic District School Board regarding their Duty to Support Gay Straight Alliances (January 17, 2011)

Queer Ontario’s Letter to the Trustees of the Halton Catholic District School Board regarding their Duty to Support Gay Straight Alliances (January 17, 2011)

January 21st, 2011

January 17, 2011

Dear Halton Catholic District School Board Trustees,

As the Chair of Political Action for Queer Ontario, I am writing all of you today in advance of
your next Board meeting to discuss your ethical and professional duty to support Gay-Straight
Alliances within the Halton Catholic District School Board (HCDSB).

In a recent study conducted by Egale Canada, three-quarters of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans
and queer (LGBTQ) students indicated that they felt unsafe in at least one area of their school,
with half of their straight peers corroborating the unsafe nature of high schools for LGBTQ
youth. No student, queer or straight, benefits from this kind of learning environment, nor do
they deserve it.

Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs) have proven to be an effective means of dissipating and
combating homophobia and transphobia in schools nation-wide. The work they do helps to
unravel the myths surrounding LGBTQ persons and offers a support network for youth who
are marginalized both at school and in their broader communities. By choosing to deny this
avenue to your students, you are also denying them their right to safe spaces and depriving
your schools of a valuable resource that would make the Halton Catholic District School
Board a more accepting and compassionate place for all. I am sure we can all agree that it
would be irresponsible and negligent for a School Board to not work with a group of students
who are at high risk of bullying, physical assault, and, yes, even suicide — particularly in
establishing a program that has been proven to work.

But ethics aside, this decision to block GSAs is also one of professional concern since
through this denial, you are actively operating in contravention to policy established and
enforced by the Ministry of Education. Specifically, as outlined in Policy/Program
Memorandum No. 145 (PPM 145) Progressive Discipline and Promoting Positive Student
Behaviour, School Boards are required to support GSAs. To reference PPM 145 under the
sub-section titled “Prevention and Awareness Raising”:

“In order to promote a positive school climate, school boards must provide
opportunities for all members of the school community to increase their
knowledge and understanding of such issues as homophobia, gender-based
violence, sexual harassment, inappropriate sexual behaviour, critical media
literacy, and safe Internet use. Ontario’s curriculum provides many
opportunities for students to develop an understanding of these topics. Boards
must also help school staff to give support to students who wish to participate
in gay–straight alliances and in other student-led activities that promote
understanding and development of healthy relationships. Schools must also
engage their school councils and student councils to support these student-led

Through your action to block the formation of GSAs and your inaction to rescind your ban on
them, you are in direct violation of policy established by the Ministry of Education that
applies to both Public and Catholic schools in Ontario. Queer Ontario understands that the
banning of GSAs is in fact a violation of Ministry of Education Policy which overrides any
perceived ‘denominational’ rights that your Board’s Chair, Alice Anne LeMay, and other
Trustees believe they have to prevent the establishment of GSAs in your schools.

Queer Ontario is calling on you today to do what is right for your students and reverse your
regressive ban on GSAs. Allow GSAs to be established within the HCDSB so that they may
conduct their social justice work both within your schools and your communities. Failing this,
we believe you should resign your positions as Board Chair and Trustees, since you are not
only acting irresponsibly with regard to the best interests of your students; you are also acting in direct contravention of policies established and enforced by the Ministry of Education. At this juncture, should you choose not to reverse your ban on GSAs, Queer Ontario calls on the Ministry of Education to intervene and enforce PPM 145 to ensure that LGBTQ students are not being denied their right to this valuable resource/support group. We would also invite the
Ontario Human Rights Commission to investigate this matter.

All students benefit from a supportive environment that counteracts the potential for bullying.
Through the work performed by GSAs, there is a real opportunity to improve the quality of
life not only for LGBTQ students but as well, the student body as a whole.

Yours truly,

Casey Oraa
Political Action
Queer Ontario

Cc: Leona Dombrowsky, Minister, Education
Kevin Flynn, MPP, Oakville
Joyce Savoline, MPP, Burlington
Ted Chudleigh, MPP, Halton
Ted Arnott, MPP, Wellington-Halton Hills
Tara Elliott, Director of Education, Egale Canada
Halton Catholic District School Board (HCDSB)
Ontario Education Services Corporation (OESC)
Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC)

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