Anti-bullying legislation
4 min

Catholic school board policy is not much different than the schoolyard bully

BY ANDREA HOUSTON – How would you like to be called “fag,” “dick", “douche,” “homo” and “asshole,” every day, spanning four years of high school?

What about “morally depraved” and “intrinsically disordered"?

Those last two are not “officially” bullying, of course. That is the accepted position of the Catholic school system in Ontario, and by extension, the Ministry of Education. In a Catholic school, queer students are told that the church “loves the sinner, but hates the sin.”

It says so right here in the Pastoral Guidelines to Assist Students of Same-Sex Orientation, a 2011 teaching guide that tells educators to explain to students that being gay is “contrary to the natural law” and that gay students be instructed never to act upon their sexual orientation in any way.

Other students (we call them bullies) hear these messages from teachers, school chaplains, school board trustees, principals, regardless how subtle, and get the impression that it’s okay to pick on queer students. In Michigan last month, the state Senate approved an anti-bullying bill that actually tried to exempt slurs passed off as “sincerely held religious beliefs,” a provision that many argued could easily be used to justify bullying gay, lesbian or trans students. (The contentious language was eventually removed.)

Who’s to say Ontario Catholic schools won’t try something similar? It’s not like students in Catholic schools learn anything about queer culture. They don’t study influential gays and lesbians throughout Canadian history or even talk openly about sexuality and gender in class. Why should bullies be expected to have any understanding of queer culture and be able to empathize with queer people?

Enough. This tiptoeing around Catholic school boards should stop. It’s not enough that schools “tolerate homosexuality.” All schools must provide a safe and welcoming environment for all students. If the province of Ontario supports gay, lesbian and trans rights, so too should all publicly funded school boards. And all board policy must reflect the Ontario Human Rights Code.

We are wasting time bickering over Catholic doctrine. Kids are suffering, and some are killing themselves. It’s time Dalton McGuinty took control back from the Catholic bishops.

Jonah Mowry’s gut-wrenching video had me in tears. He bravely admits cutting himself and attempting suicide as a result of years of constant bullying. Feeling like his cries for help were falling on deaf ears, he shot a video that quickly went viral.

Mowry is just a kid who likes singing along with Rihanna and sassing with his friends. On his Formspring page, someone asked him what his main goal is for the school year. Mowry said, “Make it through Alive. (im serious) [sic]."

So what if he isn’t suicidal anymore. Wasn’t that the whole point? 

Over the last couple days, his video has sparked a torrent of other videos, from youth who have been bullied and some bullies themselves.

This supportive message is my favourite.

Tanner Moskuil, 14, of Gatineau, Quebec, started a blog as a way to unleash his frustration at the violence and bullying he deals with at his school.

"Things have gotten a bit better, because I’ve had so much support from strangers and them sending love and support has made me soo [sic] thankful,” he told OpenFile.

Moskuil recently came out to both his parents. His dad told him he loves him unconditionally, but his mom didn’t take the news too well.

His mom yelled at him and warned him not to start acting effeminately. One day, she didn’t show up to pick Moskuil up from school, and after waiting for her, he walked home, a 45-minute trek. She seems to have prevented him from performing in a dance recital he had prepared for because it’s a gay-friendly project at his high school.

At a Nov 17 Toronto Planned Parenthood panel about bullying in high school, youth activist Lali Mohammad said he wants people to start talking about homophobia as an “act of violence."

Terrorizing another student to the point where suicide becomes the only option is a crime. If preventing that crime means, at least in part, that we actively promote GSAs, anti-homophobia events at schools, and sexuality and gender education in classrooms, then that’s what we should do. And we should do it now.

Tracey Rodemeyer, the mother of Jamey Rodemeyer, the 14-year-old from Buffalo, New York, who killed himself due to bullying in September, gets it right when she says, “Jamey had a big message, a huge message. It shouldn’t even be a message. It’s just common decency to not make people feel worthless."

If a GSA had been available to Mowry he probably wouldn’t have felt so alone. Maybe Rodemeyer, or Jamie Hubley, and hundreds of others, would still be alive and fighting today.

This morning (Dec 6), Charles McVety of the Institute for Canadian Values held a press conference at Queen’s Park claiming that McGuinty’s new anti-bullying legislation will “force teachers to violate their faith and will try to indoctrinate kids with a sexualized agenda,” The Globe and Mail reports.

Education Minister Laurel Broten’s press secretary, Paris Meilleur, re-tweeted that three Conservative MPPs, including Frank Klees and education critic Lisa MacLeod, attended. Meilleur says Klees organized the event, in which McVety called homosexuality “self destructive.”

Now who’s the bully?

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