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A year in review 2016: LGBT students save their mentor at Vancouver school board

Now-fired trustees voted unanimously to protect anti-homophobia position in 2016

Andy Legge and Avery Shannon joined a group of students to lobby the Vancouver School Board to keep its LGBT mentor on April 14, 2016. Credit: Nathaniel Christopher/Daily Xtra

A group of high school students and recent grads successfully stood up for their mentor at the Vancouver School Board (VSB) in April 2016, as trustees contemplated which programs to cut in order to slice $24 million out of their district’s budget. 

The budget cuts are part of an ongoing battle between the school board and the provincial government, which fired all nine elected trustees in October, ostensibly for failing to pass a balanced budget (though the board said it planned to pass one that night).

Prior to the firing sweep, all nine trustees had unanimously agreed, across party lines, to protect funding for the anti-homophobia mentor position, regardless of what other budget cuts might be needed.

The part-time mentor position, whose hours were already cut in 2010, is there to keep implementing the VSB’s pioneering anti-homophobia policy. Students say the mentor has changed their lives.

“I ask the board to consider that by removing the anti-homophobia mentor, they are removing for some of us one of the few — possibly the only adult — available to them as a support and advocate,” Kate Fry, a Grade 12 student at Lord Byng Secondary, told a packed public consultation at the school board on April 14, 2016.

One recent graduate said the current anti-homophobia mentor, Stephanie Lofquist, gave them the courage to come out toward the end of Grade 12.

“I felt safe to be 100 percent myself because I knew that Stephanie was going to be there to protect me and to make sure everything was going to be okay,” Dylan Read told Xtra.

Former school trustee Jane Bouey, who served two terms ending in 2011, says the board’s unanimous support for the position is a testament to the students and other community members who had the courage to speak out.

“It shows the extraordinary power of the community that came out and voiced the importance of that position,” she told Xtra in April.

It remains to be seen whether the new appointed trustee will respect the elected trustees’ decision to protect the position. She says she will. At least for now.