At St. Joseph’s Catholic Secondary School in Mississauga (in southern Ontario), there will be no gay-straight alliance for students. It’s been banned.
Leanne Iskander, a 16-year-old student (pictured, right), went to principal Frances Jacques to see about starting a GSA. She was flatly turned down, and told, “There’s already supports in place at the school, such as guidance counsellors. Also, a GSA is premature for your age.” Oh, so it’s not that GSAs are banned! It’s just that they’re redundant?
However, Bruce Campbell, spokesman for Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board told The Globe and Mail Thursday that “the principal did not say that students could not meet for discussion, but rather asked her [Ms. Iskander] to work within the many structures in place to meet their needs.” It’s a decision that Mr. Campbell said “the board wholeheartedly supports.”
It’s an approach that brings Catholic Church doctrine more and more into conflict with the new equity and inclusion policy of Ontario’s Ministry of Education, which says GSAs should be allowed to form. So far, individual school boards have been allowed to amend the policy as they see fit, so long as alternative forms of support are offered. The Catholic boards contend broader groups that support student spirit are suitable alternatives.
The move follows the GSA ban of neighboring Halton Catholic District, which finally allowed gay students to form a student group, so long as it didn’t mention “gay.”
Mr. Campbell said the St. Joseph’s principal offered to help the 30 interested students by arranging discussions with the school’s chaplain and social worker, and suggested they join other equity groups already existing in the school or refer to Courage Toronto, an Archdiocese-supported organization that supports young people with same-sex orientation. “The student indicated that she was not interested in faith-based resources,” Mr. Campbell said. “The principal indicated that, as a Catholic school, however, it is from a faith-based perspective that we would approach discussions if this is to move forward, just as a faith perspective is part of any club or activity at a Catholic school.”
Don’t take them up on their offer, Leanne. Continue fighting for the right to form a GSA. Because “discussions with the school’s chaplain and social worker” sounds an awful lot like setting yourself up to be told that homosexuality is wrong, and fixable. For now, it looks like Leanne isn’t relenting: She’s launched a Facebook page for St. Joes Gay-Straight Alliance, for her publicly funded school. I say the teens meet at St. Joseph’s hairstyling and aesthetics lab.