Alberta School Trustee Apologizes For Suggesting Students Act Less Gay To Avoid Bullying

At a meeting last week, where the Alberta School Boards Administration rejected a policy that would protect gay students and staff from discrimination, a trustee suggested kids be less open about their sexuality to prevent bullying.

Dean Schaffrick made the remarks at a debate Monday as the ASBA considered an anti-bullying policy from Edmonton Public Schools, which had enacted a similar policy last year.

“If children with a gay tendency appear a certain way, we know that we have to be vigilant to make sure they are not discriminated against,” Schaffrick told CBC News.

When asked if those students should try to be less identifiable, he said, “I think for their own benefit… it would be helpful.”

“That’s the least helpful piece of advice that you could give a student,” said Danielle Parker, a student who helped pass Edmonton’s policy last year. “Students deserve to be protected in their environment. They deserve to be able to look the way they want; they deserve to be able to act the way they want.”

Schaffrick later apologized, calling his comments “inappropriate and offensive.” He also said that he was not homophobic and wanted all students to be protected.

Although Alberta Education Minister Jeff Johnson was “offended” by Schaffrick’s statements, he does not support the anti-bullying policy because he believes that provincial legislation offers adequate protection for gay students.

Human rights activist Murray Billet strongly disagrees.

“These are the decisions that force a kid to go to the barn and hang himself,” he said. “Those are the decisions that tell that kid to shut up, be quiet, don’t be yourself.” Billet added that the anti-bullying policy “shouldn’t have been an option,” but rather “an automatic.”