Tomorrow schools around BC will celebrate the Day of Pink, a day to highlight student action to resist homophobia and defend classmates who are being bullied for their real or perceived sexual orientation.
To mark the day, the BC Teachers’ Federation and the Pride Education Network (PEN) are launching a new resource for teachers entitled The Gender Spectrum: What Educators Need to Know. This new guidebook will complement the resources currently available to help teachers address homophobia and transphobia in schools.
“For over a decade, the BCTF and PEN have been working together to create safe and inclusive schools for all students and families—whatever their place on the gender spectrum,” said BCTF President Susan Lambert. “I’m very proud of our ongoing work in this area.”
The BCTF and PEN are making a difference by providing resources, lesson plans, and professional development workshops on anti-homophobia education and by supporting Gay Straight Alliance clubs: 65 are currently active in BC secondary schools. As well, local teacher unions, parents and students have been calling for discrete policies to support lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, two-spirited, queer and questioning (LGBTQ) students and same-gender families. To date, 12 school boards in BC have adopted policies in this area.
By contrast, neither political party in BC has taken any concrete action to protect LGBTQ students, despite years of lobbying and advocacy work. Recently, PEN conducted a survey of leadership candidates, but few chose to respond.
“The silence on the part of politicians of all stripes is deafening,” says Faune Johnson, a retired teacher and PEN member. “We’ve asked for action for many years but politicians continue to ignore the plight of LGBTQ students. True leaders step up to the plate; they don’t hide behind a wall of silence.”
Kindergarten teacher Jessica Campbell concurs. “Homophobia and transphobia can affect any student at any age. I see it in my classroom. Hatred is a learned behaviour. Teachers are trying hard to eradicate it without any support from the Ministry of Education. What we really need are mandatory LGBTQ policies in every school district and concrete support for us to do this critical work,” Campbell said.
Lambert noted that the Day of Pink is not a generic anti-bullying day. It originated when students came together to assert that homophobic bullying in particular had no place in their schools. “As teachers, we know that our students often teach us important life lessons. The Day of Pink is an important example of how adults can learn from young people about how to build a better world,” Lambert said.