Boy, did we collect some interesting information this week (technically last week now to be more specific)! On Wednesday and Friday we spoke with two staff members at WGSS, who we are choosing to keep anonymous. Through them, we’ve discovered new insights and ideas that we had yet to think of.
Prior to these meetings, we thought of some solutions to the issue surrounding LGBTQ+ students and bullying:
- Assemblies- Have speakers come in and teach students on different aspects of LGBTQ+ to help diminish stigmas and negativity.
- Sexual Education- Currently revolves around heterosexual relationships and STIs (Sexually Transmitted Infections).
- Counselling for families- Having a facility for families to attend to help better understand the term “LGBTQ+” and further support their child.
Summary of 1st connection.
From what we gathered, bullying of LGBTQ+ students is a problem, but it’s not reported as much as it should be. The reason it isn’t is the same reason our connection said causes the poor views towards LGBTQ+ students: fear. People fear what they don’t understand and this is perpetuated over and over as people see these poor views all around them. It starts as a fear of the unknown, as people have misunderstood bible verses as much as LGBTQ+ as a whole, perhaps it turns into a fear of judgement by those around them? Outdated views are mostly perpetuated in elementary school, as PE class is divided into guys and girls and punishments for slander are severely lacking as “kids will be kids” but if those views are shut down from the start high schools won’t need to be the ones to crack down, the ideas will never exist in the first place. Luckily, Langley is ahead of the game when combating LGBTQ+ issues. Already WGSS has gender neutral washrooms and although they are only located in the drafting hallway, they have already received a lot of improvement. When these washrooms started a key was required, which wasn’t exactly user friendly as not only would it out some people who may not want to be out yet, but it was also a privacy hazard as teachers or anyone else with a key could open it, not realizing it was occupied. One surprising thing we found out is that it actually costs $20,000 to convert a washroom into a gender neutral washroom. Gender neutral washrooms would be far more cost effective if included in the original construction of the school, like in the case of the new school being built in Burnaby. WGSS already has pride club and is working with Qmunity in Vancouver, but it doesn’t stop there. Already there are plans for curriculum changes, in literature in English class to examples in math, making the norm include LGBTQ+ instead of being heavily hetero-normative. This start to changing the norm will immensely help LGBTQ+ students who already face complications in their teen years with fear of family and friends not accepting them, fearing for their safety, and being vulnerable. Although there isn’t too much support specifically geared toward LGBTQ+ Encompass family services has group drop ins for LGBTQ+. The question is: should we be separating LGBTQ+ into its own category? Nothing will be adequate when combating the bullying of LGBTQ+ students (nor bullying in general) as we can always do better, but would making its own policies around it instead of having it in policy 7200 help this human rights issue or push it so far out of the norm it can never be fixed?
Summary of 2nd connection:
When speaking with our second connection, we discovered many similarities in issues are reinforced surrounding LGBTQ+ and bullying in Walnut Grove Secondary. This speaker stated that bullying is prevalent, but they don’t hear enough about problems surrounding LGBTQ+ as students aren’t coming forward as often as they’d like. Similar programs were brought up by both connections, but during this meeting we were told how educating the staff is in need. When bringing up the fact that we had not heard about WGSS having gender neutral washrooms until we started this project, our connection was quite surprised as students were supposed to be informed earlier in the year by teachers. This coincides with the fact that all teachers and staff don’t fully understanding the term “LGBTQ+” and the importance of providing a safer environment for students. For solutions, it was agreed that a change in the curriculum needs to take place by adding more diversity in classes by including LGBTQ+ in areas such as literature in English or even mathematical equations. This speaker brought up the idea of having senior students take on a larger leadership role in helping inform younger students, as there is an overall lack in educating students on this topic. The only class that we have knowledge in that addresses issues surrounding the LGBTQ+ community is Social Justice, but it’s not a required course for students to take. On schools combating bullying issues, we were told that there hasn’t been enough done to get the problems with LGBTQ+ bullying where it should be, mainly because it was a topic that was avoided for so long. When asking if clubs, such as Pride Club, are safe for students to attend, this connection believes for the most part that they are. The main issue is not knowing all the students who identify under this category, which makes protection quite difficult. Students may be judged by others when attending clubs, but there isn’t any immediate threat to be found. WGSS is currently trying to learn ways to further protect students.
We greatly appreciate our two anonymous connections for providing the time to answer our questions.