British Columbia is consulting education partners while planning tougher anti-bullying policies to improve school safety for all students, including those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT).
Action was promised recently by Premier Christy Clark, who gained a reputation as an anti-bullying advocate while working as a talk-show host at CKNW radio, but details have not been released.
“My government is going to … do more to make sure that every child, as much as is possible, is protected from bullying in their school,” she told the legislature recently. “No matter what the cause or reason [for] that bullying, it is unacceptable.”
Clark described the issue as urgent, but the opposition NDP says she favours talk over action. It has challenged her to follow the lead of Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty, who recently reached out to gay teens with his own It Gets Better video and introduced a bill requiring boards of education to develop anti-bullying policies, promote tolerance and sup-port students who want gay-straight clubs – student-led alliances that sup-port LGBT kids – in their schools.
McGuinty has been hit with a storm of protest from religious groups, and some say Clark should expect the same if she proposes an anti-bullying policy that pays special attention to LGBT students or requires gay-straight alliances in faith-based schools.
“We would be 100-per-cent behind a policy or legislation that was against all forms of bullying,” said Doug Lau-son, president of the Federation of Independent School Associations of B.C., in an interview Wednesday. “But to emphasize one form of bullying would be problematic.”
Lauson, who is also superintendent of Catholic independent schools, said none of his schools has a gay-straight alliance and he doesn’t believe they are necessary because Catholic schools have student councils to protect students’ rights.
On the other side of the debate is the B.C. Teachers’ Federation (BCTF), which has been demanding better protection for LGBT student for years. Vice-president Glen Hansman said the union met with government officials recently to press for an anti-bullying policy in all schools that would pay particular attention to homophobic and racist bullying.
By Janet Steffenhagen, December 18, 2011
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