School GSAs Important to Ensure Student Safety: ETFO

Educators need to 'make it better now' for LGBT and questioning students.

TORONTO, Jan. 11 /CNW/ - Gay Straight Alliance groups must be supported in all schools where students or staff request them because they help ensure the safety of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans (LGBT) and questioning students, according to the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario.

"As educators, we need to do everything we can to protect the safety of LGBT and questioning students and we know GSAs work," said ETFO President Sam Hammond in response to a decision by Halton Catholic School Board to ban GSAs. "We just witnessed high profile gay and lesbian teen suicides last fall followed by a public campaign promising LGBT youth that 'it will get better'. Well, it's time for schools to do everything they can to make it better now for these vulnerable students."

"Rather than compromising students' privacy as the Halton Catholic Board believes, GSAs provide a safe, neutral space where students can discuss issues of sexuality without identifying as either straight or gay. That's why they work," says Hammond. "When we see studies like the 2009 EGALE Canada report indicating that three-quarters of LGBT students, and 95% of transgender students, feel unsafe at schools, we as educators must continue to do more for these students."

For almost a decade, ETFO has promoted a Positive Space campaign with posters and education about Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Trans (LGBT) education for Ontario's elementary teachers. In the coming months, ETFO will assist its members to undertake projects such as GSAs that support LGBT students as part of the Ministry of Education's new Equity and Inclusive Education Strategy introduced in 2009. Under that strategy, all boards and schools are required to create and support a positive school climate that fosters and promotes equity and diversity.

"While teachers, principals and boards are legally obligated to respond to all forms of discrimination and harassment, homophobia and gender-based violence will only be reduced through positive education and role-modelling," adds Hammond. "Even at the elementary school level, there are many ways that teachers can promote equity and diversity in age-appropriate ways and ensure that classrooms are inclusive and welcoming for all students."

The Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario represents 76,000 elementary public school teachers and education professionals across the province and is the largest teacher federation in Canada.

SOURCE Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario

For further information:

Valerie Dugale, ETFO Media Relations: Cell: 416-948-0195

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Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario

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