Delta school trustees were reluctant to commit to a student request for an anti-homophobia policy on April 24, with board chair Dale Saip stating that he does not like the idea of singling out certain groups for protection.
“From a personal perspective, I’m probably more prone to look at an overall encompassing policy that looks after everyone regardless of differences,” Saip explains. “Personally, I don’t like the idea of singling out any one group for any reason.”
Two students from South Delta Secondary, as well as their teachers and a parent, called upon the board to establish an advisory committee to draft an anti-homophobia policy similar to those in 17 other BC school districts.
Getting “lumped under the anti-bullying umbrella” isn’t good enough, Grade 12 student Floyd Van Beek told the board. “We believe this issue deserves to be recognized in a specific policy because homophobia is so much more than bullying.”
Saip discouraged the creation of an LGBT advisory committee and said that any policy proposals can be discussed in existing committees. “Our board has a standing committee that we are referring these young people to so they can come forward with their presentations,” he said. “To just strike a committee, that doesn’t have a lot of merit within our system.”
Trustee Simon Truelove said he was not aware of homophobia as something that existed outside of bullying until the students’ presentation. “When you talked about that homophobia is about more than bullying, that surprised me. I actually hadn’t heard that before. I thought of homophobia being as part of bullying.”
Truelove acknowledged that students expect action, action that he thinks will be taken by district superintendent Dianne Turner.
“My feeling was no, you can’t just talk about it, you can’t just say, ‘Yes we’ll do something about it.’ We have to take some kind of action. So what I have to tell you is that I really do have confidence in superintendent Turner in taking action and moving forward on this. This is happening.”
Turner told the students the next step in the process will involve a meeting between district staff and gay-straight alliance representatives from every school. “I’m not saying anything about [South Delta Secondary] being the wrong voice; that’s not the point,” she said. “It’s the only voice we’ve heard here tonight from students, so we need to have a more inclusive voice from the rest of the district. All voices. So I would like to bring them together to meet with senior staff members. Perhaps some teachers might want to join us. I’m not going to make a big invitation because I want people to be comfortable to speak their mind.”
While the district has a student conduct policy that condemns bullying, trustee Val Windsor thinks it lacks specifics and challenged students to do what they can to improve it.
“I trust that our gay-straight alliance clubs are going to meet and they are going to develop a very powerful message; let’s face it — we got it right here,” she said. “You’re going to bring it forward from seven schools in total. You’ll take it to the superintendent’s council, where I’m sure you’ll knock their socks off as well, and I suspect we’re going to get some recommendations coming back to us. And I look forward to those coming back.”
Students can do only so much without the active support of district officials, Van Beek countered.
“We as students have had to take it upon ourselves to convince adults of this issue and to attempt to make a change of our own accord,” he said. “This has been extremely difficult without the aid of influential adults such as yourselves. Your support is required in order to make progressive changes.”