ETFO conference timely given May 17 International Day Against Homophobia
TORONTO, May 11, 2012 /CNW/ - A first-ever Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) symposium to help teachers establish GSAs for Grades 7 and 8 students in public elementary schools is being sponsored by the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario (ETFO) this weekend.
The conference is being held as communities around the world get set to mark the International Day Against Homophobia next Thursday May 17th.
"GSA groups must be supported in all schools where students or staff request them because they help ensure the safety of all students, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans (LGBT) and questioning students," said ETFO President Sam Hammond. "This symposium is meant to support our teachers who are dedicated to ensuring that schools are inclusive and welcoming for all students."
The conference is all the more timely given the Ontario government's introduction of Bill 13 The Accepting Schools Act. The Act, which would help prevent gender-based violence and incidents based on homophobia and transphobia, calls for school boards to support organizations such as gay-straight alliances.
While GSAs have proliferated at the high school level, their establishment in middle schools is fairly new. Conference attendees will hear from Natasha Garda, a teacher who started the Toronto District School Board's first middle school GSA at Westwood Middle School. Students and teachers from Sunnyside Senior Public School in Kitchener will share how their work around homophobia and heterosexism has shifted the school culture in order to pave the way for a successful GSA. Participants will also hear from J. Wallace, the Equity Facilitator for Halton District School Board, who provides support for GSAs in Halton schools.
"GSAs work because they provide a safe, neutral space in which to address name-calling, and educate students, staff and the community about homophobia," added Hammond. "Our teachers see students in middle schools identifying as LGBT, while other students have same-sex parents. So there is a need to be able to discuss and recognize these realities in a positive space and in age-appropriate ways."
For over a decade, ETFO has provided its members with materials and resources to address homophobia as part of its Positive Space and Positive Place campaign. ETFO represents 76,000 elementary public school teachers and educational professionals across Ontario.
For further information:
Valerie Dugale, ETFO Media Relations: Cell: 416-948-0195