It was their smiles that made me smile. That, and their matching pink T-shirts.
It’s not every day you see seven school trustees, particularly in a less than urban district, embrace their constituents’ request for anti-homophobia policy with such a show of pink pleasure.
Granted, I wasn’t at the meeting, and I hear the previous Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows board had already passed a resolution to develop such a policy last June, only to let it languish in its actual development. So the trustees’ recent show of support may be little more than show. But I’m willing to give those seemingly sincere smiles the benefit of the doubt.
If the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows trustees come through, they’ll be the 16th school district in BC to pass anti-homophobia policy without any instruction or leadership from the provincial government. The Vancouver and Victoria boards led the way in 2004, Burnaby most recently followed suit in a surprisingly contentious move last May, and several more districts are now being approached by students and teachers with similar requests, successful templates in hand.
If you’re a glass-half-full kind of person, you might say that momentum is building from the bottom up, despite the lack of leadership on top.
One quarter of BC’s 60 school districts have now recognized the importance of explicitly naming and prohibiting homophobic harassment, and teaching kids to embrace rather than fear difference.
But that leaves 75 percent.
The progress may be heartening, but the math is still clear: the glass is indisputably three-quarters empty.
This despite our premier’s repeated promises to address homophobia in schools and make it a priority.
On the eve of the Pink Shirt Day rally she skipped in Vancouver on Feb 29, Christy Clark offered a few more promises to prioritize, as she fielded tough questions from gay NDP MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert, who’s as tired of waiting for change as I am.
“I promise the member this,” Clark responded, “we will work with him to make sure that we bring in the best legislation, the best policy, the best methods we possibly can for addressing this issue in workplaces, in schools and in homes for all people across British Columbia.”
Long on word count, short on substance.
If legislation = policy = methods, then the only thing we’ve learned from Clark’s little soliloquy is that she promises the best — while so far delivering nothing on the anti-homophobia front.
It’s simple math. Zero homophobia-specific legislation since she became premier + zero homophobia-specific legislation while she was education minister from 2001 to 2004 (despite the Safe Schools Task Force report she oversaw that named homophobia as a problem in schools) = zero.
Even I can handle that equation, and I’m computationally challenged.
Still, Clark’s got no shortage of promises for us.
“If I become premier, one of the very clear directives I am going to give to the education minister is I want you to deal with bullying in schools as a top priority,” she told Xtra as she courted the gay vote in January 2011’s Liberal leadership race with a strategic acknowledgment of how pervasive homophobia is in schools.
“Homophobic bullying is the number-one form of it, so yes, they have to make sure that’s part of what they’re targeting when they target bullies,” Clark said.
That was more than a year ago.
“When will she stop just expressing concern, and when will she, now that she’s premier and has been premier for over a year, actually do something about it?” Chandra Herbert pressed. “Our kids are counting on us.”
“We will be taking action on this, as I promised, in this, our second session of the legislature since I’ve been premier. We will be doing that this session,” she promised.
First it was when she became premier. Now it’s in the second session of her premiership.
Okay, Christy, let’s give you the unearned benefit of the doubt. You’ve got until May 31 to introduce the “best legislation, the best policy, the best methods” to specifically address homophobia in BC’s schools.
We’ve been waiting for a while.