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What happened to the Burnaby School Board’s gay committee?

Youth activists demand answers at Oct 12 board meeting

Two Burnaby residents want to know what happened to the Burnaby School Board’s LGBTQ committee, which was created by the board in June 2009.

Kaitlin Burnett, a graduate of the Burnaby school system, is concerned the board may have forgotten about the committee.

“I went through all the board minutes and committee reports and such, and the committee hasn’t actually presented anything to the school board,” she says. “They’ve never been invited to speak at the school board.”

Burnett and Trevor Ritchie, a Burnaby high school graduate, asked the board on Oct 12 where the committee is, where its action plan is and what policies have been developed.

Trustee Gary Wong admits it is has taken some time to get the committee off the ground.

“One of the reasons is that we’ve been trying to get students involved as much as possible with our committee,” he says.

“Although we do have a policy that supports GSAs [gay-straight alliances] in all our high schools, the reality of the situation is that a number of high schools don’t have an active GSA. We’ve also invited parents, and that’s been a bit of a challenge as well.”

Assistant superintendent Kevin Kaardal says there has been some queer-positive programming in Burnaby schools.

“We’ve begun to invite speakers in from the community, like Out in Schools, to present and when they had great ideas — for example resources — we added those resources to our instruction materials and provided information to all schools, such as planning guides for Planning 10.”

Superintendent Claudio Morelli welcomed the questions.

“I’m glad that they came and asked some very good questions,” he said. “We’re working very hard to do exactly what was asked. We hope to have a specific action plan and policy implemented by the end of the school year.”

Adeline Huynh, a youth worker for Qmunity, also spoke to the board and pointed to the Vancouver School Board as a leader in anti-homophobia policy.

“A lot of our youth, including Trevor, come from the Burnaby school system,” she said. “And the youth program GAB has been around for about 16 years and we’ve probably seen hundreds of Burnaby students come through, and I’ve heard personally many stories from youth coming from this school system that really need to be supported on many different levels.”

Burnett was pleased with the board’s response but would like to see more transparency at the board level.

“I feel that the school board was quite thoughtful in their response, and I’m pleased to hear that there has been work done in the past year,” she says. “I’m very hopeful. I wish there was more transparency so that members of the public could know what’s going on.”