Stephanie Fortier and Peter Wohlgemut, two teachers at an Altona, Manitoba, school, completed training at the Rainbow Resource Centre as part of a provincial professional development day. For their participation in the course, the teachers received cards pledging their support for gay and lesbian youth. Here’s what the cards said:
As an Ally, I envision a society that embraces, values and celebrates diverse sexual orientations, gender identities and gender expressions.
As an Ally, I support lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, Two-Spirit, intersex, queer and questioning individuals, families and communities.
As an Ally, I work towards a more aware, affirming, safe and open work environment in both policy and practice.
As an Ally, I acknowledge that creating a safe space is an unwavering process that requires productive commitment, re-assessment and dedication.
As an Ally, I am committed to the elimination of homophobia, biphobia, transphobia and heterosexism as well as other forms of oppression.
I participated a Rainbow Resource Centre LGBTT Ally Training session and completed ___ hours of training in the year.
More than 15 parents have demanded that the teachers remove the cards from their classes. “I would like to have the choice to teach my children about these words and what they mean,” Peter Sawatzky, one of the opposing parents, wrote to the school board. Did I mention that the classrooms in question are for fifth-grade students? Now, I grew up in the Manitoba educational system, and the first time another student called me “gay” and a “faggot” I was in kindergarten. Granted, he was older than me, but only by a few grades. So I’m terribly sorry, Mr Sawatzky, but when exactly were you planning on teaching your snotty-nosed little brats what “these words” mean? You’re not naive, just stupid, to think that at 11 years old they don’t already know. Have you picked up a newspaper and read about any (yes, as in more than one!) 9-year-olds who killed themselves because they were being taunted by their peers over their perceived sexuality? Wake the fuck up. If we waited for every half-witted parent to teach their kids some common decency and respect, we’d be tormented for the rest of time with stories of youth killing themselves, and each other. Yes, it should be up to parents. But parents are failing, so it’s the moral responsibility of schools to step in.
Bravo to Fortier and Wohlgemut for taking action to create a more peaceful and caring environment for their students. Somebody has to do it, before there are no more students left to teach.
As a result of the backlash, the Border Land School Division has instructed the teachers that they may display only the top part of the cards showing the word “Ally.”
The school division is now officially an ally of . . . wait for it . . . keep waiting . . . oh shit, that’s it.