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Halton Catholic school board under fire for turfing LGBT policy

Trustees who voted against speak about their decisions

Anthony Quinn told the Toronto Star he worried if students disagreed on sexual morality it could lead to students being unjustly disciplined. Credit: Twitter

The Halton Catholic District School Board is under increased scrutiny for rejecting a progressive discipline policy because it was LGBT-inclusive.

Last week, Daily Xtra broke the story that four Halton Catholic trustees voted against the policy because it included words such as “sexual orientation,” “gender identity,” “gender expression” and denounced “homophobia.”

The story, which was picked up by the Toronto Star and CHCH News, has sparked a round of retribution from the provincial government.

“Gender identity and gender expression are now included as prohibited grounds of discrimination under the Ontario Human Rights Code,” Education Minister Liz Sandals wrote in a statement to the Star. “We will be reaching out to the board to discuss this matter,” she said.

“Our schools must be places where everyone — staff, students, parents and the community — feels welcome, safe and respected.”

Liberal MPP Glenn Murray, who became the first openly gay mayor of a major Canadian city in 1998, also expressed his disappointment in the board’s decision.

“All of us are sad when we see boards not responding to basic respect and safety of kids in schools,” Murray told reporters on May 25, 2016. “As a kid that grew up out and gay, I certainly had my share of bullying.”

Anthony Quinn, the Oakville trustee who raised the concerns that led to the policy being rejected, broke his silence this week and provided a statement to the Star about his reasoning for voting against the policy.

Quinn has not responded to numerous requests for comment from Daily Xtra.

“If a student or group of students were to cause another student or group of students to feel unsafe or unaccepted in the school environment, that could lead to the student(s) reciting Catholic teaching being subject to discipline under the revised policy, as it was written,” he wrote.

Quinn wrote that he worried if students disagreed on sexual morality it could lead to students being unjustly disciplined.

“Could the teachings of the Catholic faith and the verbal expression of those teachings cause students to be disciplined if they led to another student not feeling safe or welcomed?” he wrote.

Halton Catholic board chair Jane Michael told Daily Xtra last week that she doesn’t believe the policy goes against Catholic teaching.

“The church recognizes the dignity of all persons and neither defines nor catalogues them according to their sexual orientation,” she said. “So I think there was some independent feelings that the catechism was not being adhered to when in fact it is being adhered to.”

The Star’s editorial board condemned the school board for rejecting the policy and demanded it be passed quickly.

“The school board was on the wrong side of that argument, and it’s put itself on the wrong side of this new controversy,” they wrote.

The school board will have an opportunity to review the policy at their next policy meeting on June 14, before the final board meeting of the school year, on June 21.