A Call to Action for Canadian School Boards: Ambivalence, Silence and Inaction on 2SLGBTQ+ Inclusion is No Longer Tolerable

by Fae Johnstone

Despite progress over the past two decades, 2SLGBTQ+ students continue to face discrimination and inequality in our schools. In 2021, Egale Canada, Canada’s leading organization for 2SLGBTQI people and issues, released the results of their second climate survey on homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia in Canadian schools. Many of us, as adults, and/or as former 2SLGBTQ+ students ourselves, imagine and hope that our schools are substantially safer for 2SLGBTQ+ students than they used to be. Egale found that that is not necessarily the case.

Their report, entitled “Still in Every Class in Every School” shows that, while there have been changes in the past decade, homophobia and transphobia are indeed still alive and well, in every class, in every school. They found that:

The message could not be more clear: 2SLGBTQ+ students are not safe in our schools.

While social attitudes have undoubtedly evolved, as have the legal rights and protections afforded to 2SLGBTQ+ people in Canada, this has not translated into substantive changes in the everyday safety and well-being of 2SLGBTQ+ students.

2SLGBTQ+ students deserve – and need – to see themselves reflected in their schools and school communities. Many of our young people come from unsafe homes. Many have already experienced violence and discrimination, at home, in schools, among their peers and in public spaces. Amidst a world still immersed in homophobia and transphobia, the very least we can do is ensure our schools – public institutions – are bastions of safety, inclusion and support. To this day, that is not the case, not for 2SLGBTQ+ kids.

We undoubtedly have shining examples of inclusion, in schools and school boards across Canada. We have boards like the OCDSB and TDSB, who, while imperfect, have put real resources behind their commitments to 2SLGBTQ+ inclusion. These are exemplary efforts – and ones that should be held up as examples for others to follow. Nonetheless, they remain the exception – rather than the rule.

In 2022, there is no excuse for unsafe schools, or for schools and school boards to stay silent on the rights, well-being and safety of their 2SLGBTQ+ students and staff. We are calling on all boards to demonstrate their support for 2SLGBTQ+ students, staff and communities.

So, how can school boards show their support?

2SLGBTQ+ children have the right to protection as enshrined within the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.  Adults, educators, school administrators and
trustees have a responsibility as duty-bearers to ensure that happens. We have an obligation to ensure 2SLGBTQ+ children are safe, supported and protected in our schools. 2SLGBTQ+ rights are children’s rights are human rights.

Schools must be safe havens for 2SLGBTQ+ children and youth, because too many of our young people don’t have safe homes. Inclusive schools are one of our most viable interventions to improve the health, well-being, and futures of 2SLGBTQ+ young people. We have no time to waste.  

Additional Resources

Supports for 2SLGBTQ+ Students:

  • LGBT Youth Line offers peer support for 2SLGBTQ+ young people in Ontario through text, call and online chat functions. https://www.youthline.ca/
  • Kids Help Phone has 24/7 crisis line available to children and youth anywhere in Canada. Support can be accessed through Facebook Messenger, text and phone. https://kidshelpphone.ca/urgent-help

For Training and Education:

  • Wisdom2Action offers training and education for service providers, educators and administrators on 2SLGBTQ+ and trans inclusion, alongside policy development and strategy development support. wisdom2action.org/inclusion
  • The Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity offers a wide range of 2SLGBTQ+ inclusion workshops for students of all ages, and for the educators and administrators. https://ccgsd-ccdgs.org/training-and-workshops/
  • Egale Canada has robust resources and training programs to support 2SLGBTQ+ inclusion in Canadian schools. https://egale.ca/training-workshops/

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