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Halton Catholic schools ban gay-straight alliance groups

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Halton Catholic schools ban gay-straight alliance groups

Halton Catholic District School Board (HCDSB) chair Alice Anne LeMay. IMAGE 1 OF 1
'We don't have Nazi groups either': board chair
UPDATE JAN 16: Gay students feel betrayed by Halton Catholic board
UPDATE JAN 10: Xtra story on Halton Catholic GSA ban sparks outrage
UPDATE JAN 12: Halton students may launch human rights challenge

JAN 6: With the world’s spotlight on the It Gets Better campaign and gay teen suicides, the urgency for schools to create gay-straight alliance (GSA) groups seems obvious.

But while the Ontario Ministry of Education thinks GSAs are important, the Halton Catholic District School Board (HCDSB) takes a different view. The HCDSB feels the groups are harmful and has issued a ban on GSAs altogether.

“We don’t have Nazi groups either,” rationalizes board chair Alice Anne LeMay. “Gay-straight alliances are banned because they are not within the teachings of the Catholic Church.”


“If a gay student requests a gay-straight alliance they would be denied,” she says flatly. “It’s not in accordance with the teachings of the church. If they wanted to have a club outside of school, fine, just not in school.”

As of 2011, all Ontario school boards have equity and inclusive education policies that help schools provide safe and positive environments for students of all races, religions and sexual orientations. The policies, which encourage GSAs, give schools the tools to deal with discrimination.

“Schools that have GSAs are a lot more open, caring, welcoming and a whole lot safer,” says Helen Kennedy, executive director of Egale Canada, who has been involved in the fight against homophobia and transphobia in schools for the past two years. She is quick to point out that many other Catholic schools in Ontario have GSA groups.

Michael Pautler is the education director of the HCDSB, a board responsible for 40 elementary schools and eight secondary schools, a total of about 29,000 students. He tries to explain the ban to Xtra, saying the amendment was made to the equity and inclusive education policy after one trustee took issue with the language before the policy was approved in November.

“Anybody can have input into the process as the policy is being developed, but ultimately the language at the end of the process is approved collectively,” he says.

Pautler justifies the decision by saying the ministry’s equity and inclusive education policy only proposes GSAs as “one possibility” to fight homophobia.

Although he wouldn’t provide another possibility, Pautler manages, “All students that attend school should be able to feel free of harassment and are protected from any forms of persecution or anything that makes them feel marginalized.”

Apparently students can create groups, just none that have the word “gay” in the title.

“Dialogue groups can achieve the same kinds of objectives, but that have a broader focus on inclusion generally,” he says. “Or a celebration of diversity, as opposed to focusing on any one particular expression of diversity.”

And that’s exactly what Pautler says he would tell a gay student asking for a GSA.

The Ministry of Education did not respond to interview requests from Xtra. Ministry spokesperson Gary Wheeler instead answered via email: “Each board implements the policy based on their own local needs and circumstances and in a way to best fit their own communities. Some boards may choose to support gay-straight alliances, others may not.”

Kennedy says the board is trying to circumvent the provincial policy by adjusting the language to suit its beliefs.

“That’s ridiculous,” she says. “That’s like saying drunk-driving laws don’t apply to everyone.”

Just as the province’s scrapped sex education curriculum was scrutinized last year by religious groups, the equity and inclusive education policy was put under a similar microscope by Catholic school boards.

The Ontario Education Services Corporation (OESC), which assists school boards in drafting policies, examines the provincial legislation “through a Catholic lens” and has posted a template on its website for Catholic boards to use when drafting the policy at the board level, Kennedy says.

The HCDSB took the ministry legislation and adapted it, she says.

“[The policy] lists gender, sexual orientation, a whole bunch of stuff, that Halton has not included in their equity and inclusive education policy,” she says. “The legislation is pretty clear.”

Board chair LeMay says Catholic schools have special rights to define religion standards.

“That’s the rights of the Catholic schools,” she says. “We have denominational rights. And our rights say we will not do anything against magisterial of the Catholic Church.”

Kennedy says Egale is watching all school boards and reading their equity policies closely.

“Because we do a lot of work with schools and GSAs, we have to deal with this far more than we’d like to,” she says. “So this is an issue that is on the horizon now, and a lot of that is to do with the focus on the It Gets Better campaign and all the teen suicides.”


Read more of Xtra's coverage on the Halton Catholic District School Board's ban:

Halton Catholic schools ban gay-straight alliance groups

Xtra story on Halton Catholic GSA ban sparks outrage

Why is Ontario funding an anti-gay school system?

Halton Catholic policy and GSA ban remains in effect

Halton Catholic students may launch human rights challenge

Catholic bishops vs. anti-discrimination policies. Who wins?


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Comments

The strategy
Since the early 1990s gay activists and various homosexual groups have been using strategies that provide them with greater access to public schools. Usually the focus is upon making the schools a safer place for homosexual, bisexual, transgender, and transsexual students, thereby justifying the introduction of topics and speakers on the subject of homosexuality. The establishment of homosexual clubs on campus provides an ongoing forum to promote and advance homosexuality to students on campus. For example, movie nights showcasing homosexual relationships; pro-homosexual day of silence events; same-sex handholding days; hosting pro-homosexual speaker events; and publishing pro-homosexual articles in school newspapers.
Unfair
I think it is ridiculous that the Catholic church gets lambasted everytime Gay and or lesbian comments are made.They are beacon of light and morality at a time when there is very little in this world. Being a proud Catholic, I can say that the church has done something not a lot of people can be associated with - sticking to their core values.
No Irony only Ignorance
Those who want their way will say & do anything to get it. They want everyone and everything to bend & allow their personal or sexual preferences. Bring up past events, scew them to fit their agenda & lie. Watch out if you don't agree with them! Like the Catholic bashing. ADaPonte, WHERE is your proof that the church backed the nazi party? Sounds like you yourself have a upside-down, house of cards, can't hold any water kind of belief system.
Irony
They wouldn't allow a neo-nazi group, but that being said the Church fully backed the nazi party during WWII. If anything, according to the papacy: nazis are okay, but gays are evil. Moderate Catholics should be rethinking about their upside-down, house of cards belief system right about now.
Tell Alice Directly
It's not homophobic to not want to promote an activist group. Activism sometimes incites violence. If the club is that important, they should go to public school. Just because of sexual preference there has to be a club? Then to be fair, there should be a promiscuous club, a haters club, a ho club, a teacher hater club, etc, etc, etc, etc, etc, etc, etc.... It would be more constructive & positive to have a club that does not center on sex all the time. GBLT just want to bend everyone's policies to get their way. Talk about intolerant.
Nazi's Not Allowed?
There is a a lot of irony here... Alice Ann LeMay comment is closer to a Nazi viewpoint than those that are accepting of Gay sexuality. And, those who are act in a loving and accepting way towards to the downtrodden and Gays is more in common with the teachings of Jesus than Alice Ann LeMay's interpretation of the Chatholic Church's teachings. She is entitled to her view, but she needs to be responsible at least in part of any Gay children in Halton School Boards that commit suicide.
U SUCK HOMOPHOBICS
this is so irrelevant
Common sense.
Catholics schools have the right and duty to promote Catholic values. Homosexuality is incompatible with Catholicism. Therefore, the school is correct to ban the gay-straight alliance. It is pretty simple to understand.
Ok wtf are you kidding me
What ok let me get this right gays cant go to school because they like the same sex.... so! like what harm would having a gay person do! it's not like every gay person is going to go out and spread the "gay" people know what they like sexually and just because their is gay people don't mean they are gonna tear down the church.... gay people who go to these schools go because they want to learn about god and Jesus they agree with all that god stands for just they can't help it if they are attracted to the same sex ...if anything we should welcome gays because that shows that we understand that people don't have a choice when it comes to sexuality and that we don't care all people are created the same and have the rights to do as they wish as long as tho's two people love each other because thats what sex is no? strong love between two people and who are you to say otherwise ......im not gay but the only reason i'm Catholic is because i believe in god a god that loves all no matter what. but if that god dose not love someone because they are gay and wont let them have the same chances as heterosexual people then i dont want to believe in that god... that god sounds more like the devil ... not letting them go to school thats just wrong i understand if you think its wrong good for you great just let them go to school what will it do nothing i have never met a gay who acts diffrent from other people they get good grades have nice manners and treat others with respect so who here is the real abomination the gays or you...
Tell Her not commenters!
Catholics are not "churches bitches". Prove me wrong that every religion asks it's people to improve upon their lives and take an active part in their faith. Catholic bashers are still living in the past, talking about the crusades, etc. by the way, sorry I noticed, but many of those pedophile priests admitted to being Gay. So I am assuming that there are alot of GBLT who dont condone pedophiles. Fact remains, many of them were Gay! quit living in the past, Humans are humans and every human makes mistakes. That doesnt mean that you can generalize about one particular religion. Thats immature bashing. If all of you feel this strongly, why dont you write her a letter so SHE can see it?? She's never going to read the comments here!!! A physical letter sent to her personally is what should have been done so that others didnt have to continue to be offended by this ignorance by BOTH sides!!!!

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