National Study to Quiz Teachers on Homophobia

Article excerpt

Fighting homophobia in the school system has become very personal for Paul Olson.

The president of the Manitoba Teachers' Society -- along with the province's trustees and superintendents -- enthusiastically endorsed a national study Thursday led by University of Winnipeg Prof. Catherine Taylor on inclusive education for LGBT education.

Taylor will survey teachers across the country on their perspectives on homophobia in schools and their ideas and practices for dealing with it.

A previous three-year study that Taylor led showed widespread homophobia and verbal and physical harassment in Canadian schools on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, two-spirit, queer and questioning students.

Olson told a large audience of professors and students at the U of W Thursday it was only in university that his step-daughter found the information and resources that started the process of living as a man. In public school, said Olson, "He saw nothing at all to reflect his transgender identity.

"It's not that he was hiding -- it's that he didn't know enough at that point. I am still very proud, but proud of 'him', and not of 'her'," said Olson.

Canadian teachers must do far more to deal with issues of sexual orientation, Olson said. "Canadian teachers are among the best-trained on the planet. Our obligations as teachers are to meet the needs of every student."

Olson said every English-speaking teachers' group in Canada -- the survey is not being conducted in French -- "jumped at the chance to be involved."

That included teachers in Ontario's public Catholic system, he said, despite "pushback from the bishops."

Far too often, Canadian schools will go only as far in their policies in promoting respect for everyone and endorsing general anti-bullying, said Taylor.

"That's not all that's required to include students. What is needed is participation in school life. …