Burnaby school board approves anti-homophobia policy
The Burnaby school board unanimously approved its controversial anti-homophobia policy on Tuesday evening prompting cheers from the hundreds who had gathered to support it.
The cheers of about 400 supporters lasted for five minutes when the decision was announced, said Kaitlin Burnett, 25, a community activist who organized the rally.
Burnett, a lesbian who had experienced homophobic bullying while a student in the Burnaby school district, said the supporters included parents, teachers, students, and members of the Burnaby community, Christian churches, the labour movement and PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays).
She said she was "thrilled" by the decision.
"It's all in implementation but it has the potential to make a huge difference in the lives of students."
Burnett noted that most of the speakers and entertainers at the rally were youth. Despite what opponents have said, "this isn't a case of adults with an agenda trying to force a policy on Burnaby youth. This is a case of Burnaby youth asking for a policy. I'm very glad they got what they asked for."
Earlier in the day, Parents' Voice, a parents' group opposed to the policy, presented a 5,000-signature petition to the premier expressing its opposition.
Nevertheless, Burnaby school trustees passed the draft policy with revisions which board chair Larry Hayes said cleaned up some of the language and "probably made it more palatable to a good number of people."
The changes were in response to constructive feedback about the policy's title, and phraseology and the realization some words didn't translate well into other languages.
"We may know what we're talking about but we want to make sure the general public knows what we're talking about as well."
Use of the word "curriculum" also caused misunderstandings that the district was changing curriculum with the policy.
"We just wanted to make clear we're not swaying away from anything that the Ministry of Education doesn't already approve," he said of other changes.
The new policy is not unlike others that aim to prevent discrimination on the basis of race, religion or gender, he said. "This is just another one of those tools that is focusing on a group that certainly we have learned needs that extra assistance."
But Hayes doesn't believe the board can make everybody happy on the issue.
"For those that are just opposed to recognizing that there's No. 1, an issue, or No. 2, that there should be recognition of anybody but heterosexuals in society, are we ever going to convince them? Probably not. But that's not the kind of atmosphere we want in our school district or in our community."