Catholic Teachers support students naming clubs GSAs

TORONTO, May 29, 2012 /CNW/ - The Ontario English Catholic Teachers' Association (OECTA) supports the amendment to Bill 13, the Accepting Schools Act, which would allow students to name a club a Gay Straight Alliances (GSA), if they choose.

"For our Association, the bottom line is to always meet the needs of our students," says Kevin O'Dwyer, OECTA president. "Providing safe, inclusive environments and eliminating bullying wherever we can is paramount. If the students feel that a club should be called a GSA - that it makes a difference to them - then, we respect and accept that choice."

GSAs are student clubs that provide an opportunity for students, regardless of their sexual orientation, to work together on fostering schools that are respectful and safe places for all students. The primary goal of GSA clubs is to undertake discussion and engage in activities that will make schools more welcoming places for Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgendered (LGBT) students and prevent bullying.

"Many adults have commented on what should be done in schools to help prevent discrimination and victimization of marginalized students," says O'Dwyer. "The reality is, this isn't about the adults - it is about the students and student relationships - and we need to empower the students who are a key part of this equation."

Research has shown that:

  • students who identify as LGBT are at higher risk of experiencing bullying and are three times  more likely to commit suicide than heterosexual students;
  • not using the word 'gay' leads to further marginalization of students for whom the word speaks to  the core of their identity;
  • in schools where GSAs exist, students have more favorable outcomes related to their school  experience and the level of psychological distress they encounter and lower rates of suicide.

"As Catholic educators, we believe that EVERY student is worthy of respect, dignity and love, and we affirm the sanctity of all human life," says O'Dwyer. "We cannot expect to address a problem if we cannot openly discuss that problem, regardless of how difficult that conversation may be."

OECTA represents the 43,000 professional women and men who teach all grades in publicly funded English Catholic schools in Ontario.

For further information:

Michelle Despault
Director of Communications
416-925-2493 xtn 509
416-818-7533 (cell)
m.despault@oecta.on.ca