Tsawwassen students lead call for anti-bullying policy addition
Delta School District officials will examine if they need to add homophobia to their anti-bullying policy after an impassioned presentation from a pair of South Delta Secondary school students.
Grade 12 student Maddy Van Beek, and Grade 10 student Rachel Garrett addressed school trustees and staff at a district meeting Tuesday evening (April 24) telling them they need to look at the situation which they believe fails to address the needs of many students who are not only treated poorly by their peers for their sexual orientation, but are often too frightened to talk to anyone about it, even their parents.
In their presentation the pair said homophobia is frequently, "a less obvious form of bullying," that is swept under the rug.
"Youth who are struggling with their gender and sexuality are not proficiently supported by their peers or families," said Van Beek who along with Garrett run their school's Gay Straight Alliance Club. "Many are even too afraid to try and reach out to others."
The lack of including homophobia in the district's anti-bullying policy detracts from its stated core values, said Garrett, adding, "But you can help us change that."
The pair stated that homophobia is much more than bullying—it is an attitude.
"Society places taboos upon us and demoralizes those who are already struggling with who they are," Van Beek said.
What they would like to see is a specific, focused policy to deal with the issue in Delta schools.
Garrett said she suggested the district pass a motion to establish an advisory committee to draft a sexual orientation and gender identity policy.
She added that a host of other school districts are moving forward on the issue in their jurisdictions, "and we should, too."
Dianne Turner, Delta's Superintendent of School said to get the process moving here she would be inviting representatives from each of Delta's school-based gay and straight alliance clubs to meet and discuss the issues.
"I'd like to bring everybody together to meet with some senior staff members and teachers," she said. "We have a policy development process in the district that really begins with truly understanding the need for the policy."
Trustee Simon Truelove said he felt all forms of bullying are a huge problem.
"And it hurts me when we look at our bold vision and you're (students) coming to us and saying, well, you're not really following in the case of homophobia that vision. And that's serious, and we really have to take that on."