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Local man tackles Catholic school board


Local man tackles Catholic school board

Julien McArdle puts up posters on Bank St. IMAGE 1 OF 1
An online petition urges board to allow GSAs in schools
Julien McArdle has spent the last month collecting signatures for a petition urging the Ottawa Catholic School Board (OCSB) to lift a ban on GSAs. In a few short weeks he has collected more than 400 names, and they are still trickling in.

McArdle's campaign has caught the OCSB's attention - but spokespeople insist the board does not have a policy banning GSAs.

Mardi de Kemp, the OCSB's communications officer, spoke with Xtra by phone. When asked if GSAs are allowed, de Kemp was consistent in her reply.

"We don't have a policy banning them," she says.

De Kemp is insistent that OCSB schools have clubs that handle equity and diversity. She says all clubs operate at the discretion of the schools' principals.

"We have all different multicultural and clubs around inclusion and equity and all kinds of things, so I think that the specific principal would have to be given the opportunity to assess what the club's about and whether it meets the students' needs," she says.

McArdle received a similar line of reasoning in an email from Tom D'Amico, superintendent of the OCSB.

"We ensure that there are multiple opportunities for all students to be proud of their identity and their uniqueness, whether this be based on gender, academic ability, ethnic origin, physical characteristics or any other differentiating characteristic," he writes.

D'Amico says the board is against bullying and that "sexual orientation is just one characteristic that some youth focus on when it comes to bullying." He states that the schools have anti-bullying policies and are committed to following them.

McArdle acknowledges the OCSB has programs that combat bullying but says they fall short in providing a safe space for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students.

"It's a contradictory concept. They [OSCB] are for programs that combat bullying, even if these programs extend to gay students. What they have problems with is anything that would be supportive of a student's identity whereby a student would be comfortable with the concept that being gay is okay," he says. "It's that 'Love the sinner, hate the sin' kind of mentality."

In an email to D'Amico, McArdle asked whether a student can start a club called a "gay straight alliance" in an Ottawa Catholic school.

The answer was a categorical "no." So until GSAs are allowed in the schools, McArdle will continue his online petition.

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Good Point
Although it has not been a standard practice for school boards anywhere to acknowledge gay rights within their individual schools, it might well be past the time to implement some form of positive on-going inclusive activity (i.e. gay month) within the school. This would exist 1)to provide inclusion and a discussion forum for it's straight and gay populations,2) to sensitize all staff and students to the issues surrounding gay students. 3)It would not be necessary nor wise to single-out gay students, however, such forums would 4)acknowledge an awareness that gays exist, that they are fragile and vulnerable and 5)need to be given an intelligent framework within which to express views, and 6)most importantly, an opportunity to encounter role models who have excelled in the worlds of Art or Finance or Industry etc.., and 7) to be sheltered from bullying, including exclusion bullying (negative bullying)which happens when school boards simply continue to deny the existence of gay students within their classrooms. This would go a long way toward preventing potential suicides, depression, and other Health concerns which are greater in the gay population, and also enable these good young men and women to become productive adults and reach their full potential within society.
In the event you miss the posters.
The petition can be found at stopthehate.ca

Also, Julien is mighty approachable for an interview or anything related to LGBT issues.

Good start to a good cause buddy!
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