Province Needs to Act to End Homophobia and Transphobia in Schools

Students and New Democrats calling for consistent province-wide policies

VICTORIA— In the lead up to Pink Shirt Day,students across the province are joining with New Democrats to call on Premier Christy Clark to turn words into action and bring in strong, consistent policies to combat homophobic and transphobic violence and discrimination in our school system.

“Students from Smithers, Prince George, Burnaby, Kamloops, Sooke, Vancouver, and other B.C. communities are calling on the Liberal government to go back to the roots of Pink Shirt Day and get serious about addressing homophobic and transphobic bullying,” said Spencer Chandra Herbert, New Democrat MLA for Vancouver-West End. “During her leadership campaign, Premier Clark said she would make tackling homophobic bullying a top priority, but since then, nothing has been done. That’s why students are speaking out.”

A national study conducted by Egale showed that 1 in 5 lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students had been physically assaulted because of their orientation, and almost two-thirds of LGBT students feel unsafe at school.

“It’s clear that the current patchwork of school district policies isn’t offering strong and consistent protection to all students regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation,” said Chandra Herbert. “It shouldn’t matter where a student lives or goes to school, they should feel safe to be who they are.”

Mary Ellen Turpel Lafond, the province’s independent Representative for Children and Youth, has raised concerns about the fact that only 15 out of 60 school districts have strong policies in place aimed at stopping homophobic and transphobic bullying.

“It’s unacceptable that 75 per cent of school districts don’t have explicit policies in place to ensure some of our most vulnerable youth are protected and safe,” said Chandra Herbert.

“Numerous studies have shown that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students face high levels of violence and discrimination in our public school system.

Chandra Herbert joined with members of the Vancouver District Student Council, which represents the 58,000 students in the district, at King George Secondary School to highlight the fact that despite high profile comments like the ones made by the Representative for Children and Youth, and a purple letter campaign calling for action from the government, the Liberal government has refused to bring in province-wide policies to protect LGBT students.

“Protecting LGBT students is not an issue that can simply be relayed to local school boards to deal with. You have a responsibility to take care of our children and keep them safe within the schools you put them in,” said the VDSC in their letter to the premier.

The VDSC letter calls on the government to implement a province-wide sexual orientation and gender identity policy, instill values of equity and equality at the earliest ages and survey youth at the provincial level to locate direct solutions to direct problems.

Chandra Herbert also wrote a letter asking the premier to make tackling homophobic and transphobic bullying a top priority; it has been endorsed by the Pride Education Network and 15 gay straight alliances and school organizations across the province.

“Today, students across the province are standing together, and asking Premier Christy Clark to take action this Pink Shirt Day and commit to bringing in strong, consistent, province-wide policies to tackle the problem of homophobic and transphobic violence and discrimination in our schools,” said Chandra Herbert. “When one student is bullied, all students are bullied. Protections for LGBT students protect all students from an environment of hatred and bullying.”

The Vancouver District Student Council is a non-partisan youth organization representing 58000 public high school students.