July 28, 2010
As Vancouver gears up for the 2010 Pride Parade and Festival, the Vancouver School Board is pleased to report on its continued leadership in addressing issues affecting Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning (LGBTQ) students in schools. The VSB is committed to creating safe, inclusive, learning environments that celebrate diversity.
“We recognize and are acting on our responsibility to be proactive in addressing homophobia and all forms of intolerance, discrimination, and harassment that can make students feel unsafe or unwelcome in schools,” says Board Chair Patti Bacchus.
“I am incredibly proud of the groundbreaking work being done in this district ,” says Board Vice Chair Jane Bouey, liaison to the VSB Pride Advisory Committee and the City’s LGBT Advisory Committee. “I, and other trustees, have worked hard on these initiatives and support this priority. All students should feel safe, welcome and included in order to be able to learn and thrive in our schools. Our schools should celebrate their amazing diversity”
The VSB Pride Advisory Committee, established in 2003 with representation from VSB staff, trustees, parents and various community groups, meets regularly to advise the Board. In 2004 the Board adopted comprehensive LGBTQ policy that commits the district to providing a safe and positive learning environment for all students and employees.
For the last six years, a part-time district Consultant for Anti-homophobia and Diversity has provided direct support to schools, and liaised with the network of Safe Contacts in the schools.
Within each elementary school’s library collection of diversity resources are children’s books that portray families with same sex parents. Likewise, secondary school library collections include LGBTQ resources. Thousands of Vancouver students participate annually in “Pink Day” events focused on reducing bullying, and in particular homophobic bullying and celebrating inclusion.
Through a very popular “Lunch and Learn” school-based series of workshops, the Anti-homophobia and Diversity Consultant raises awareness, shares strategies for creating inclusive environments, and ensures that staff are better able to address issues around sexual orientation and gender identity. In addition, staff throughout the school district, such as Settlement Workers in Schools and Counsellors, participate in similar professional development activities.
All secondary schools have student clubs, (often called Gay-Straight Alliances – GSA’s) through which students take positive action for creating inclusive environments and supporting each other. This year many secondary schools hosted plays, films, and assemblies to promote awareness and acceptance. Schools sent student and staff representatives to join those from other Lower Mainland school districts at the “Dare to Stand Out Conference” hosted by Vancouver in March 2010, which was opened with a welcome from Board Chair Patti Bacchus.
Outreach includes presentations to UBC student teachers through their mandatory Developmental Psychology course. In addition, the Consultant speaks at community events such as a recent symposium hosted by Children’s Hospital on transgendered youth. The Consultant also provides support to transitioning youth and their families, and provides information for school staff on the topic of transgendered youth.
Bacchus, Bouey, other trustees, staff and students, will be joining the VSB “float” (a decorated old school bus) in the August 1 Parade. “This year’s theme of ‘Educate, Liberate and Celebrate’ is important to us,” adds Bacchus. “We are focusing on the ‘Educate and Liberate’ component so that we call all have something to ‘Celebrate.’”