Forum - St. Peter,s S.S. GLA Alliance,RoseMary Ganley

Posts in Topic: St. Peter,s S.S. GLA Alliance,RoseMary Ganley
2017-03-15, 16:20:17#1

Join Date: 2010-02-05
Location: Peterborough
Posts: 652
St. Peter,s S.S. GLA Alliance,RoseMary Ganley

Bookmark and Share

Change text size for the story


Report an error

One day last week, former Peterborough Roman Catholic Bishop William McGrattan, now gone to Calgary, said that while he may choose softer language than his predecessor, Bishop Fred Henry, who was famous for hard lines on sexual matters, his views that are not different.

Bishop McGrattan is opposed to Gay-Straight Alliances in high schools, "since they promote a certain lifestyle" and he doesn't "believe in categorizing young people."

That very day I attended a Gay- Straight Alliance meeting at a local Catholic high school. I wish the bishop had been with me at St. Peter. I think he would have been reassured, to say nothing of edified, at the interactions among 50 or so conscientious students who are taking seriously their mission to support one another.

In 2012, then Education Minister Laurel Broten amended the Education Act to strengthen its anti-bullying section. It requires that publicly funded schools in this province offer help to students who want to organize a Gay-Straight Alliance, if even one student requests it. The clubs are to be advised by a teacher, and called "Gay-Straight Alliances," not "Equity Clubs" or "Respecting Differences" clubs. Because, as Broten pointed out, problems need to be named before change can happen.

That was almost five years ago. The Toronto Public School Board now proudly proclaims that 60 of its secondary schools have GSAs. The Canadian Civil Liberties Association hails the difference such clubs make in the overall welcoming climate of the school. Teachers everywhere overwhelmingly say school morale rises, inclusion increases and mood improves.

The 2012 policy change in Queen's Park was supported by the teachers' union, the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association, a huge boost.

The fact is that teenagers often hear remarks in their classes: "That's so gay" and other insulting terms. Cyber-bullying has emerged as an issue for vulnerable teens.

Meanwhile, here in Peterborough at St. Peter Secondary School, the head of English, who is a widely respected teacher-mentor, Joe Webster, said he would be the teacher-advisor. He has found it deeply rewarding work for justice. The club meets once a week over lunch. I was privileged to attend my second GSA meeting this week.

The knowledge, sophistication and kindness of these youth was very impressive. The kids come, munching their lunches in a comfortable atmosphere, as they offer insightful analysis of the current situation. A few of the students are gay, I would think; most are straight. It doesn't seem to matter.

Today's meeting seems to focus on what transgender means, and what being an ally means. At a previous meeting, some youth wept openly as they discussed the targeted shooting of LGBT people at an Orlando club. They follow the news closely; worry about Trump's America, discuss sports and sexual identity.

The teacher-librarian, Shelley Hughes, quotes from a hero during the Nazi era, Rev Martin Niemoller, who said famously: "First they came for the communists, but I wasn't a communist "¦ so I did nothing." (Then they came for Jews, gypsies, homosexuals ). "When they came for me, there was no one left to help."

Science teacher Helen Lynett offers a few matter-of-fact realities about transgender biology.

Webster, these teachers and others are doing crucial work, closely tied to their vocation as leaders.

Most of the discussion is offered by the students. And they leave cheerful, stronger, more knowing and accepting of all. They'll be back next week, learning again how to advocate for others.

Perhaps, that's what schools should be accomplishing?

Reach writer, activist and teacher Rosemary Ganley at rganley2016 An Activist Reflects, 7-9 p.m., Mark St. United