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Rainbows banned at Mississauga Catholic school

Rainbows banned at Mississauga Catholic school

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Students stopped from donating cupcake money to LGBT Youth Line
Despite a ban on any rainbows at the St Joseph Catholic Secondary School anti-homophobia event June 3, the student organizers found a creative way to get their message across: hiding rainbows inside the cupcakes.

Leanne Iskander, 16, who founded the school’s “unofficial” gay-straight alliance in March, tells Xtra the Dufferin-Peel Catholic School Board put the kibosh on displaying any rainbows at their information booth.

“We brought signs and posters with rainbows, and we were told that we can’t put them up,” says Iskander, who was recently named the 2011 honoured dyke and youth grand marshal. “They said rainbows are associated with Pride. There’s so many other things that a rainbow could be. It’s ridiculous.”

The teacher who delivered the news told Iskander the decision came from the board. “The board wasn’t there, but they knew about the event,” she says.

Since rainbows couldn’t be displayed openly and proudly, the students baked rainbows into the cupcakes by dying the batter in a rainbow of colours. The cupcakes were sold for 50 cents each, raising about $200 for charity.

But the students couldn’t donate the money to any gay, lesbian or trans charitable organization, such as the LGBT Youth Line. “We asked if we could donate to the money to the Youth Line and the board said no. We were told to donate to Covenant House, a Catholic homeless shelter.”


Bruce Campbell, spokesperson for the board, could not be reached for comment.

Casey Oraa, chair of the political action committee for Queer Ontario (QO), has been supporting the students since they first submitted the GSA proposal. He says the rejection of the rainbow flag and the board’s insistence on benefiting a Catholic charity rather than one chosen by the students proves administrators have no interest in diversity.

QO supplied the students with several materials for the event, but many were rejected by the board, including the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation’s Shout Out Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Transphobia and Heterosexism, a booklet designed to educate young people on issues relating to sexual orientation and gender identity; an AIDS Committee of Toronto flyer; and information on trans health, he says.

“We proposed a whole bunch of resources and only about four got approved, and the ones that were approved were censored,” Iskander says. “They wouldn’t let us have this one booklet because it had one or two sentences on safe sex.”

Oraa says it’s absurd to ban the rainbow flag, but it’s completely in keeping with the Catholic board’s treatment of queer students.

“The Catholic board gave the students a carrot to try to silence them when they announced the anti-bullying clubs. But it’s not enough and it’s not meeting the needs of youth,” Oraa says. “The students recognize that and they are fighting for what they want.”

“Nothing the schools do surprises me anymore. Not allowing the rainbow flag? They have no concept of diversity. [The board] is pushing back because Leanne is a problem for the school. She’s also a problem for Catholic school boards and the Ministry of Education. Leanne’s a problem in the best possible way, even more than she even realizes. It’s fantastic she’s a problem.”

GSAs started making headlines in January after Xtra reported a ban on the student clubs by the Halton Catholic District School Board. Board chair Alice Anne LeMay told Xtra then that the board “doesn’t allow Nazi groups either. Gay-straight alliances are banned because they are not within the teachings of the Catholic Church.”

In February, Xtra revealed there are no GSAs at any Ontario Catholic school. Then, in April, all Ontario Catholic boards were instructed to allow “anti-bullying groups,” but a silent ban remains on all student groups focused on gay, lesbian and trans issues and group names can’t contain the word gay. GSAs are prohibited because “they lead to activism.”


Iskander has already announced that the group plans to bring their fight to Toronto’s Pride parade this year under the newly formed, student-led, student-driven contingent dubbed Catholic Students for GSAs.

Principal Frances Jacques doesn’t want the students telling everyone at Pride what school they attend. “She’s actually fine with it, she just doesn’t want [Pride] connected to the school, so we can’t say the school name or anything,” Iskander says.

Iskander says it’s more important to get the message out. To do that, the group plans to make buttons. Iskander is now appealing to the community for donations to raise about $1,500.

"Marching in Pride is important to us because it will allow us to advocate for GSAs in Catholic Schools to a large audience,” she says. “Handing out buttons will be an excellent way to spread the message that GSAs are needed in Catholic schools."

Oraa says Queer Ontario will continue to support the youth throughout the summer to advocate for GSAs in all Ontario secondary schools.

“The buttons are important as another way to spread the message and show solidarity for the cause across Ontario,” he says. “Some people think by now allowing the anti-bullying clubs, the issue is over. But it’s not. The youth want to hand these buttons out to their fellow students, public or Catholic.”

Comments

rebuttal
The teaching that sterile sex is a sin is not going to change just because we don't like it. And it shouldn't. Truth and reality are absolute, not relative. re: "Catholic schools in Ontario are publicly funded and must abide by our Charter of Rights which includes freedom of expression and freedom of assembly" Does your charter not include freedom of religion? That's oppressive! On school grounds during school hours, the Catholic School's freedom of religion should have precedence over other groups' freedoms of expression and assembly. There are plenty of appropriate forums for freedom of expression and assembly, but doing so at the cost of another group's freedoms in their recognized time and place is not appropriate. re: why Catholic Schools should receive tax funding...because taxes go to services provided for the common good, and educating children has been deemed for the common good. Based on the reasoning "why should my taxes be used for something I don't agree with", defund all schools, or everyone check on their tax returns which school system, if any, their tax money should support. If it's not right for people to pay taxes for things they don't agree with, if Catholic Schools were to be defunded, no money would be taken from Catholics to pay for other school systems.
All Over Nothing!
At least we got them to stop burning people at the stake. All of this hatred over something that never existed! Incredible Edible Jesus http://ravingatheists.com/forum/showthread.php?t=16087
Even if ...
Even if they lost public funding, which they should, I would not suspect that even a majority of the gay kids have much of a choice in their attendance of this school. Schools should be for teaching, not oppressing minority children ... and even a Catholic school should be able to live up to that standard.
Public funding should be for truly public schools
I see that some commenters--especially the hardcore Catholics from the USA--are saying things like, Of course gays should be banned, this is a CATHOLIC school! What they don't seem to realize is that these Catholic schools are 100% PUBLICLY funded in Ontario! THAT'S the problem. (Or maybe you think that not being permitted to use a service that you've paid for is ok?)
re: HUH
Julie Catholic schools in Ontario are publicly funded and must abide by our Charter of Rights which includes freedom of expression and freedom of assembly. Besides which teaching sexuality in schools is essential, approximately 85% of students in Ontario high schools in a recent survey wanted more information on sexuality and different sexualities in school. Teaching kids about sex and sexuality is essential to ensure they can confidently make informed decisions about their own sexuality. As well teaching sex in schools lowers teenage pregnancies, at least there seems to be an awful lot of teenage pregnancies in areas where sex is not taught in schools. As well kids need to be made fully aware about not only different sexualities but the importance of using the right sort of protection in avoiding STDs and pregnancies.
HUH
It is a catholic school! They should not be promoting anything sexual, gay or strait. And the monies should go to a catholic charity. We are way to politically correct. Keep sexuality out of the schools.
Pick the Right Battle
The Catechism of the Catholic Church #2358 says “They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.” That’s the part of Catholic teaching that gets at how people are to be treated. If we’re legislating behavior, it’s right on the mark. When freedom is the freedom to choose the will of God, unhampered by the desires for good outside the will of God, the Catholic Church is our friend. When freedom is the freedom to choose to act however we feel, the Catholic Church is not going to call it good within the will of God or true freedom. What we’re getting to here is legislating beliefs. Do we want to do that? That means putting our trust in people rather than God and the will of the stronger will prevail. Where does that leave the weak? We need to think long and hard before we legislate beliefs. The fight for acceptance of LGBT people in the Catholic Church was never a fight as the Church accepts everyone. The fight for acceptance of acting on desires that are not open to and protective of new life is not regarded as a fight for true freedom.
Activist hero
I LOVE it when a person SO much younger than myself becomes my hero. You ROCK Leanne!
Support
It's unbelievable that after raising $200 with their bake-sale, the students at St. Joe's were not even allowed to donate the money to the cause they were trying to support. I made a donation today to the LGBT Youth Line on behalf of St. Joe's school. If you'd like to do the same go to www.canadahelps.org and search for LESBIAN GAY BI TRANS YOUTH LINE. Thank you emails can be sent to webmaster@sjssonline.com
Flood 'Em Out
I thought the Rainbow was also, and firstly, G!d's symbol of the covenant with Noah and his descendants that another flood would never threaten human life on earth. Banning the rainbow!? Methinks that school had better check their sump-pump, as they're about to get some backing up of water soon. They'll need to start building their ark soon! The Rainbow is also a sign of diversity, and methinks diversity is the single most important principle for the coming age: biodiversity, cultural diversity, religious diversity and finally political diversity. Their immature decision to prohibit this show of colours should enable the colours to proliferate in response!

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