Human Sexuality Program Social Work Services, Toronto District School Board




Kids Say the Funniest Things…
Anti-Homophobia Group Work in the Classroom

By Steven Solomon, MSW, RSW

Teaching Education, Vol. 15, No. 1, March 2004

For well over 12 years the Human Sexuality Program within Social Work Services of the Toronto District School Board has been serving lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender (lgbt) students, teachers, parents and their families.  Alongside individual, family and group support to the lgbt communities in the board, the program has also been delivering anti-homophobia workshops to classrooms across the district from grade 1-12.  As well, the Human Sexuality Program provides the social work support to the Triangle Program of Oasis Alternative Secondary School, Canada’s only high school classroom for lgbt students and other students victimized by homophobia.

A the classroom level, there has been a tremendous demand from teachers and schools seeking to fulfil their obligation under school board’s equity policy to create and maintain safe, welcoming and inclusive learning environments for lgbt students and students with lgbt parents.  In the last two years much of the demand has come from teachers in the elementary panel, grades 1-8.  This should be understood within the growing body of literature that points to the seeds of homophobia being established very early on (Lipkin, 2000).  The myths, misconceptions and stereotypes about lgbt people are subtly and effectively transmitted to young children via older siblings, peers and families themselves.  As such, effective anti-homophobia education must be articulated and delivered to students across the grades beginning in elementary school.

This paper will discuss one aspect of the classroom work done in elementary schools.  In particular I want to talk about the students’ written responses the anti-homophobia presentations.  With a focus on family diversity, one workshop is entitled, “Family Values Workshop – We Value ALL Families”.  In short, the workshop states out loud the existence of lesbian and gay families within the broad constellation of families (2-parent heterosexual, single parent, adopted families, foster families and extended families) using a clip from the video entitled, That’s A Family (Chasnoff & Cohen, 2001).  The video is then followed with a discussion of the impact of homophobic name-calling, asking the class how it would make the kids in the video feel.  The workshop concludes with a brainstorming session on how to make their own school welcoming to the kids in the video.  Throughout our conversation I state that kids with lgbt parents, like the ones they met in the video are students in their own school.

Student Responses to the Workshop (misspellings and all!)

“I thought it was grose and diskusting and I also think they should not be teaching us about lesbians and gay people.  I don’t think that stuff is for kids.  But I think that they’re trying to show us that if someone has a lesbian or gay parents we should not make fun them because everyone is different” – Alice grade 3

“That (video) told me wut gay means and I oley want one dad and one mom.  My anty is a lesbin.  My mom and my dad berok up” – Jerome grade 3

I think that the presentation yesterday was effective and concise because I had not trouble understanding what the presenters were telling me.  When Steve Solomon told the class about lesbians and gay people he talked about it in a casual but serious tone which made me feel comfortable.  The video that was shown helped me understand that gay/lesbian parents aren’t very different from other parents…[t] he parents love their children, played with their children and protected them like any other parent… Also I think that some children become prejudiced because of the influence of their parents or whoever they look up to.  What is it in the human mind that makes certain individuals so cruel?  I look at animals and sometimes I wonder would it be better to be as simple as a rabbit or some other creature?” – Amy grade 5

“I did not like this presentation because it was dumb…They shouldn’t be telling this two us now, they should be telling us this in grade 9, not grade 5 or under.  My mom said that is so stupid.  We aren’t adults we shouldn’t be learning on gays and lezbeains, that’s their life not ours.  That was a disturbing performance and should have been for only adults and teenagers because kids don’t care about this people” – Lissa grade 5 (same class as Amy above)

“The visit that Helen and Steven gave us was very interesting.  I think that gay men being stereotyped like women is just insane!  First of all, not all women like pink, shopping for shoes and other “feminine” activities.  My piano teacher is gay and I thought that was weird.  But after the (video) and what Helen and Steven talked about, I don’t think it’s that weird anymore.  Same with the girl that lived in our basement.  I used to feel weird going downstairs to feed her cats, but now I feel fine.  Some of the names that gays are called are disgusting.  It’s not like they are any different than us.  They may have a different choice in who they live, but they are just other human beings and shouldn’t be treated like dirt” – Saleema grade 7

Commentary on Student Responses to the Workshops: Letters responding to Alice, Lissa an Amy

It is important to garner student feedback/thoughts on the workshop and respond to their remarks.  A popular follow up to the workshop is for the students to write me letters or journal responses about their impression of our conversation.  This may give some student’s an opportunity to say things they didn’t/couldn’t say during the workshop.  One method of responding to their remarks is to write letters back to the students.  By reading the responses to the letters, teachers learn how they may respond to children’s feelings about gay and lesbian families and anti-homophobia education.  Two examples of letters I’d write back to Alice & Lissa and Amy appear below.

Dear Alice and Lissa: I am curious as to why you use words like gross and disgusting when talking about lesbian and gay families?  In the video we saw kids gardening, playing games, doing chores and having birthday parties much like many of your classmates said they do.  The one difference that everyone pointed out was that these families happen to have two moms or two dads.  Before the workshop, I’d be curious to know what other people have said to you about the word gay or lesbian.  I might guess that some people have used the words in a sexual way, but you’ll remember that we made no such mention in our classroom conversation.  In fact you’ll remember that we spoke of two people falling in love, maybe deciding to live together, maybe deciding to raise a family.  I also remember that we decided as a group that no two families are the same and that we all come from families that look different.   Other students also pointed out that our families are important and everyone needs to be able to talk about their family therefore I’m surprised you feel that kids with gay and lesbian parents should not be talked about.  What about the feelings of the kids in your class with gay and lesbian parents?  Like Alice said, we should not make fun of them because everyone is different.

Dear Amy: You make some very strong points in your letter and seem to feel that playing fair and respecting everyone is important.  While some of your classmates feel differently you make an important point that families can look different but still be able to do the things that matter like keeping us safe and playing with us.  I remember you speaking up in class and I’m quite sure the kids with lesbian and gay parents appreciated your remarks and probably felt a little more comfortable in your school.

While the demand for anti-homophobia education continues, it will be interesting to ponder the impact of a grade 3 or 5 conversation a few years later.  I am just now bumping into students in grade 8/9 during yet another kind of anti-homophobia workshop who remember me from a grade 4/5 family values discussion.  While much seems to have been retained (what we spoke about and why) I sense that their new environment/school and new school mates present a challenge to standing up to homophobia as the pressure to fit in and go along with others increases.  A concerted and comprehensive effort at all grade levels before during and after such anti-homophobia group work will be necessary to keep learning environment safe, welcoming and inclusive.   


Lipkin, A. (1999). Understanding Homosexuality, Changing Schools. Boulder: Westview Press.

Chasnoff, D., Cohen, H. (Producers). (2000). That’s A Family [video]. San Francisco: Women’s Educational Media.


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You’re so Gay: Addressing Homophobic Bullying in the Elementary Classroom with the National Film Board’s Apples and Oranges

By Vanessa Russell and Steven Solomon

Russell, Vanessa & Solomon, Steven. (2004). Addressing Homophobic Bullying in the Elementary Classroom.  Orbit, 34, (2) 3pps.


A number of years ago, a thirteen-year-old gay student on the heels of completing grade 8, came to the doorstep of the Triangle Program, the only classroom for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth in Canada. He was traumatized and hardly spoke at all but it was clear that he wanted to register. A couple of months into his stay, he began to thaw out and talk about his experiences in elementary school. He was thrown into the creek behind his school, had garbage dumped on him, had a wrist fractured when he was smashed into lockers, and was harassed, threatened, and called derogatory names on a daily basis. It is outrageous that in the late 90’s, parents, administrators, and teachers did not protect this kid. The Triangle staff wanted him to have a different and positive school experience. Like so many students who have experienced trauma, this student was math-phobic. So we treaded carefully. When we sat down to begin some work in math, we started with a review of integers knowing that he would have already learned about them in elementary school. We believed it would be a safe place to start. We were astonished when this student had no recollection of ever learning negative and positive numbers. We started to put the pieces of the puzzle together – his  experiences of harassment began precisely at the time he would have been learning integers. He just stopped learning.

We often use this experience based on our work at the Toronto District School Board’s Triangle Program to illustrate to teachers and administrators that students stop learning when they are harassed, excluded, and brutalized and that it is the responsibility of all school board staff to ensure that students are included and valued in classrooms and schools. At the very least, as educators, we all want our students to learn. Sadly, the reality is that most schools are not supportive, safe or positive places for lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (lgbt) youth (eg. Education Wife Assault, 1999; Fisher, 1999; GALE BC, 2000; GLSEN, 1999, 2001). In fact, as are the experiences of our student described above, schools can be a living nightmare. Incidents of homophobic bullying both within and outside the school system, continues to erode the confidence and the well being of lgbt youth. They are ‘at risk’ in a number of psychosocial areas. Research in the UK, US, Australia, and Canada suggests that the problems they face include a lack of self-esteem, parental rejection, peer abuse, substance abuse, dropping out of school, homelessness, unsafe sexual behaviour, prostitution, suicide, and self-injurious behaviours (eg. Black & Underwood, 1998; Fineran, 2002; Fisher, 1999; GLSEN, 1999, 2001; Grethel, 1997; Kroll & Warneke, 1995; Massachusetts Department of Education, 1995; McCleary Centre Society, 1999; McFarland, 2001; Pilkington & D'Augelli, 1995; Rivers, 1997; Van de Van, 1994). Of course, lgbt youth are not the only recipients of homophobic bullying. “Perhaps more than any other system of oppression, homophobia, heterosexism, and sexism work together to reinforce each other” (Campey, McCaskell, Miller, & Russell, 1994, p. 97). These systems have rules and expectations of how ‘real’ men/boys and how ‘real’ women/girls should behave with serious consequences for those who step outside of their prescribed gender-roles. Little boys and girls from kindergarten onward are often targets of homophobic bullying for minor gender transgressions: girls who don’t like to play with dolls; boys who hate sports; boys who hang out with the girls during recess; and, girls who are ‘aggressive’. Children with parents who are lgbt are also targeted. Homophobic bullying is pervasive, insidious and starts early. It prevents boys and girls from fully expressing themselves and seriously interferes with the healthy psychosocial development of all children. Curriculum that excludes the lived realities of lgbt communities exacerbates the problem and creates a ripe environment for homophobic bullying to flourish. Challenging homophobia needs to be initiated early with young children in a direct and age-appropriate way that helps them to develop the skills necessary to resist and decode biased messages for themselves. There are few good resources that support elementary teachers to deal with homophobic bullying in the classroom. There are even fewer that are lively, humorous, and non-preachy. The NFB’s Apples and Oranges is new video that fills this gap.

Apples and Oranges

Inclusive curriculum is a powerful tool for positive social change. Rules are not enough. Biased ideas and behaviour are rarely changed by rules alone. Curriculum that supports critical thinking can empower students to build a more just society. An effective way to begin to challenge homophobia and heterosexism within the school system is to infuse equity education across the curriculum. Apples and Oranges can be used across a number of subject areas including English/language, visual arts, drama, social studies, health, and family studies. The images, animation, music and messages in the video are accessible, funky and non-didactic. Animated sequences can be used with primary students if lessons are built around them. An integrated teaching approach that combines critical thinking and problem solving with language acquisition and skill development can be used easily with Apples and Oranges. A study guide of anti-bias and anti-homophobia activities accompanies the video. It includes definitions, pre-viewing, and post-viewing interactive exercises and covers themes such as self-expression, diversity, and family. Activities in the study guide can be linked to a range of equity issues. An examination of the similarities, differences and intersections among racism, sexism, class-bias, discrimination against persons with disabilities, and can be useful to engage students and build empathy. Establishing ground-rules in the classroom based on group norms gives students the opportunities to discuss difficult issues without feeling judged or ridiculed. Homophobic incidents as they arise in the classroom must be dealt with and if possible turned into teachable moments.

Students responses to Apples and Oranges

Anti-homophobia workshops in the elementary panel (grades1-8) take a variety of forms and results in the generation of students responses to the discussion and the tools used.  The following is a sample of student responses to such workshops incorporating, “Apples and Oranges”.  In the first two instances, the schools and classrooms had done very little prior work, while the third had more history of doing anti-homophobia equity work.
“I thought it was grose and diskusting and I also think they should not be teaching us about lesbians and gay people.  I don’t think that stuff is for kids.  But I think that they’re trying to show us that if someone has a lesbian or gay parents (like Ante) we should not make fun them because everyone is different” – Alice grade 3

“It was very intresting when you showed the video because I learned a big reason no to make fun of people that have gay or lesbian parents….Ante is  lucky to have two moms.” - Lissa grade 5

I liked your talk about gays and lesbians.  The movie, “Apples and Oranges” helped me realize the way the kids feel when they have same-sex parents (how Ante had to deal with mean kids like Cindy)… I also found it a little sad when Habib treated Jeroux badly… I hope I can me more like the friend Smugde  who was cool with Jeroux being gay…Mohammed, grade 7.

What can be surmised from this small sample of student responses?  Like much equity work, how it is conceptualized, designed, shaped and delivered holds the key to how students will internalize and make meaningful the message.  As an empathy building exercise, much of this anti-homophobia work seeks to engage the students’ feelings of fairness and justice.  The depictions (animation, actual classroom segments) in , “Apples and Oranges” provide a glimpse into some of the ways that students demonstrate their ability to assess the meaning of difference.  As the last response above indicates, the student has used the template of friendship (his own, others) to decide how best he can achieve the friend he sees himself as one day.  Using this video for some time now, it seems apparent that it is allowing the classroom watching the video to be witnesses to both the real and antimated students and their struggles to do well by each other.  This becomes evident in the follow-up conversations with the classroom that incorporate discussions of how one student can successfully stand up for one another and stand up to homophobia.  As most students will attest it is easier said than done.  At this point students will eagerly identify and welcome the efforts and power of the adults in their world to move things forward.


However so as to not fall into the trap of individualizing homophobia (Cindy against Ante, Habib against Jeroux), it is important to place the video’s use within the broader efforts to normalize anti-homophobic attitudes and actions.  A concerted and comprehensive effort at all grade levels before during and after such anti-homophobia group work will be necessary to keep learning environment safe, welcoming and inclusive.  While the demand for anti-homophobia education continues, it will be interesting to ponder the impact of such conversations with these students down the road.


Black, J., & Underwood, J. (1998). Young, female, and gay: Lesbian students and the school envrionment. Professional School Counseling, 1(3), 15-20.
Campey, J., McCaskell, T., Miller, J., & Russell, V. (1994). Opening the classroom closet: Dealing with sexual orientation at the Toronto Board of Education. In S. Prentice (Ed.), Sex in schools: Canadian education and sexual regulation. Toronto: Our Schools, Ourselves.
Education Wife Assault. (1999). Creating safer schools for lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth: A resource fo educators concerned with equity. Toronto: Education Wife Assault.
Fineran, S. (2002). Sexual harassment between same-sex peers: Intersection of mental heath, homophobia, and sexual violence in schools. Social Work, 47(1), 65-74.
Fisher, J. (1999). Reaching out: A report on lesbian, gay, bisexual youth issues in Canada. Ottawa: EGALE.
GALE BC. (2000). Challenging homophobia in schools. Vancouver: GALE BC.
GLSEN. (1999). Research summary: 1999 national school climate survey. Retrieved April, 2003, from
GLSEN. (2001). GLSEN: The 2001 national school survey: Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students and their experiences in schools. Retrieved April, 2003, from
Grethel, M., M. (1997). Homeless lesbian and gay youth assessment and intervention. In M. Schneider (Ed.), Pride and prejudice: Working with lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth and their advocates. Toronto: Central Toronto Youth Services.
Kroll, I., & Warneke, L. (1995). The dynamics of sexual orientation and adolescent suicide: A comprehensive review and developmental  perspective. Calgary: University of Calgary.
Massachusetts Department of Education. (1995). Youth risk behaviour study. Boston: Massachsetts Department of Education.
McCleary Centre Society. (1999). Being out: Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth in BC: An adolescent health survey. In GALE BC (Ed.), Challenging homophobia in schools. Vancouver: GALE BC.
McFarland, W. (2001). The legal duty to protect gay and lesbian students from violence in school. Professional School Counseling, 4(3), 171-179.
Pilkington, J., H., & D'Augelli, A., R. (1995). Victimization of lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth in community settings. Journal of Community Psychology, 23, 34-56.
Rivers, I. (1997). Violence against lesbian and gay youth and its impact. In M. Schneider (Ed.), Pride and prejudice: Working with lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth. Toronto: Central Toronto Youth Services.
Van de Van, P. (1994). Comparisons among homophobic reactions of undergraduates, high school students, and young offenders. Journal of Sex Research, 31(2), 117-124.

Vanessa Russell worked as a consultant in the Toronto District School Board’s Equity Department and as teacher/coordinator of the Triangle Program. She was a project leader on Rainbows and Triangles: A Curriculum Document for Challenging Homophobia and Heterosexism in the K-6 Classroom. Currently, Vanessa is pursuing doctoral studies at OISE/UT.

Steven Solomon works as a school social worker within the Toronto District School Board’s Human Sexuality Program.  Alongside individual, family and group support to lgbt students, teachers, parents and families, Steven delivers anti-homophobia workshops to classrooms, grade 1 –12.  Steven also provides the social work support to the Triangle Program.


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What One Teacher Can Do
©1999 Arthur Lipkin, Understanding Homosexuality: Changing Schools
Reprinted with permission
Education Department Resource

What One Teacher Can Do
Contributed by Arthur Lipkin

The following checklist describes different levels at which educators can become involved in learning about lesbian, gay,
bisexual, and transgender issues in schooling and how to create a safe and supportive learning environment for all
1. Inform yourself about lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people
and about anti-LGBT bias.

Low Risk

· Learn about LGBT history, culture, and current concerns by reading books, journals and periodicals.

Some Risk
· Attend LGBT film series or lectures.
· Attend a meeting of an LGBT organization.
· Attend an “allies” meeting (for example,
· Have conversations with openly LGBT

Greater Risk

· Engage heterosexual people, including
your family and friends, in discussing
issues concerning LGBT people.

2. Create a safe and equitable classroom.

Low Risk
· Change your assumption that everyone is heterosexual unless they tell you otherwise.
· Use inclusive language that implicitly allows for LGBT possibilities (for example, “parent” rather than “mother” or “father”; “spouse” rather than “wife” or “husband”; “date” rather than“boyfriend” or “girlfriend”).

Some Risk
· Challenge anti-LGBT language and name-calling.
· Put up LGBT friendly posters, pictures, or signs.
· If you are heterosexual, don’t be quick to inform others of your heterosexuality. Ask what they might think if you told them you were LGBT.

Greater Risk
· Be clear about your willingness to support LGBT students.
· Use language that explicitly allows for LGBT possibilities (for example, “Emily Dickinson and partner”).
· Invite LGBT speakers to your classroom.
· Use LGBT curriculum.
· If you are LGBT, come out to your students.

3. Create a safe and equitable school.

Low Risk
· Be a role model of acceptance.

Some Risk
· Challenge name-calling and harassment.
· Work to establish policies protecting LGBT students from harassment, violence, and discrimination.
· Call for the inclusion of LGBT people in diversity presentations.
· Work to form Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) and/or support group for LGBT students.
· Call for faculty and staff training in LGBT youth issues (including crisis intervention and violence prevention).
· Call for counseling services for LGBT youth and their parents.

Greater Risk
· Invite LGBT speakers to your school.
· Join a GSA.
· Call for and develop an LGBT awareness day.
· Work with the PTA and other community based support groups regarding the education and health needs of LGBT students.
· Solicit the cooperation of LGBT alumni/ae in motivating the school to meet the needs of students who succeed them.
· Call for faculty training in LGBT studies.
· Encourage colleagues to develop and use LGBT curriculum.
· If you are LGBT, come out to the school community.

©1999 Arthur Lipkin, Understanding Homosexuality: Changing Schools
Reprinted with permission

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Addressing Homophobic Behavior In the Classroom
Alan Horowitz

This June 2001 article by a seasoned educator provides practical tips for addressing homophobic harassment in the classroom
I began teaching 1st grade in 1988. At that time, it was rare that I heard words related to gay issues from my students. When I left the classroom in 1998, appropriate and inappropriate discussion about gay issues was commonplace. I remember once during "learning centers" I heard the word "gay" coming from the block center. I walked over to investigate. Kelli whined, "Jordan said if you hug your dad it means you're gay."
"No, if you hug your dad it doesn't mean you're gay," I responded.
Then I listened as I walked away.
"Gay is a bad word," Kelli scolded.
"No, it's not," replied Jordan. "If it was, Mr. Horowitz would have said something."

Conversations such as these are occurring in block centers around the country. Worse yet, harassing words such as "f*g" are among the most common pejorative words in elementary school classrooms, hallways, and playgrounds. When I heard the word "gay" in my class, I knew how to respond. Most teachers don't.
As teachers, we make more than 30 decisions a minute. Through experience, we increase the bag of tricks that helps us make these decisions. When students make racial slurs, most teachers have an appropriate response in their repertoires. When lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) issues are brought up, however, there is often discomfort on the part of the teacher, hindering a quick response. The key to successful response is to become comfortable talking about LGBT issues.
In elementary schools, students use the word "gay" definitively, erroneously, and pejoratively. When students use the word definitively, it is clear that they know its meaning and are using it in a proper context. For example, "My uncle and his partner are gay." This type of usage requires no response on the part of the educator.

In elementary schools, students use the word "gay" definitively, teacher.
My block-center scenario illustrates an erroneous use of the word "gay." In this case, "gay" was used incorrectly. Here, a short, age-appropriate clarification was the most appropriate intervention.
When a student uses the word "gay" pejoratively, he or she intends to mean something incorrect and negative. For example, "That drawing is so gay." In this case, it is important for the teacher to help the student say what he really means. The following dialogue will illustrate:
Teacher: When you say the picture is "gay" what do you mean?
Jane: I don't know.
Teacher: Is there something you like or don't like about the picture that makes you call it gay?
Jane: It's weird.
Teacher: So, why did you say the picture was "gay" instead of weird?
Jane: I don't know.
At this point, it is important for the teacher to clarify.
Teacher: "Gay" is a word that is used to describe a group of people (depending upon the age of the student one could clarify further). When you use their name to mean "weird," it hurts their feelings. How would you feel if somebody used your name to mean "weird"? How would it make you feel if someone said "that picture is so 'Jane'?"
In elementary school, students also use homophobic words, such as "f*g," that are clearly derogatory. In these instances, a teacher should respond as she would to any harassing behavior?name it, claim it, and stop it.
- Name it: "That is homophobic harassment (or an age-appropriate alternative)."
- Claim it: "That is not permitted in this classroom (or school) because it is disrespectful."
- Stop it: "It will never happen again. If it does (state the consequences)."
Since my teaching career began, times have changed. Students mirror a society that is becoming increasingly more comfortable discussing LGBT issues. The media are portraying more and more positive LGBT role models. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people are raising children at unprecedented rates. As teachers, we need to match our students' level of awareness in this area. In this way, we can add appropriate interventions to our teaching "bag of tricks."

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1.         Examine your own feelings and attitudes toward homosexuality and bisexuality. Develop insights into possible fears and misconceptions.  Books, lectures and consultations with gay, lesbian and bisexual agencies and professionals may assist you with this process.

2.         Begin the never ending process of questioning the assumptions associated with heterosexism, homophobia, sexism, racism, ageism, classism and patriarchy.

3.         Become aware of the oppression that gays, lesbians and bisexuals face constantly.  For instance, imagine how you would feel if your romantic, sexual and love feelings were the cause of derision, disgust, hatred and violence from people around you, very frequently from your own friends and family.

4.         Do not presume that your client is heterosexual unless it is so stated.

5.         Increase your awareness of gay, lesbian and bisexual resources in your  community.  The gay, lesbian and bisexual communities are frequently the greatest source of support to gays, lesbians and bisexuals.

6.         There are unique positive aspects about being gay, lesbian or bisexual.  Become aware of them and develop the capacity of helping your client to discover them.  For example, it takes great strength and mental health for gays, lesbians and bisexuals to function in a homophobic society.

7.         Do not base your notion of mental health on sex and gender role stereotypes.

8.         Refer your client to a gay, lesbian or bisexual - positive therapist/counsellor if you are unable to establish a positive growth-producing rapport/relationship.

9.         The gay, lesbian or bisexual adolescent is not your only client; the homophobic and heterosexist environment in which she/he lives is also your client.

10.       Encourage your agency to display pamphlets listing resources for gays and lesbian students.
11.        Do not simply try to help lesbians, gays and bisexuals cope with harassment and prejudice.  Be their advocate and help them to obtain their rights.
Toronto District School Board, Human Sexuality Program.  For more information please contact Steven Solomon, School Social Worker at 416-985-3749

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Can Students' Be Excluded from Anti-Homophobia Workshops?

The short answer is no as they are considered part of Human Rights Education. See the following letter below from Senior Management

TDSB Policy Letter - No Exclusions

155 College Street
Toronto, Ontario
M5T 1P6

TO:                 Principals                                                           DATE:             26 September 2002

FROM:          Gerry Connelly
                        Associate Director

It has come to the attention of the Equity and Human Rights Departments that many administrators have received a form letter entitled, Declaration of Parental and Family Rights.  Please review the attached letter which has now been sent out to the Toronto District Muslim Education Assembly which is the organization responsible for the creation of the Declaration.

Upon receipt of the Declaration contact the parent to determine the specific accommodation being requested for the individual student.  It is important to note that no student can be exempted from Human Rights education.  Human Rights education is an essential strategy for informing staff and students of their rights and for preventing Human Rights violations.  Granting requests of exemptions from human rights education is not in accordance with the polices and practices of the Board which is required by law. For assistance with such requests, please contact your Superintendent of Education.

Accommodations will occur within the context of the Toronto District School Board.  (Guidelines & Procedures for the Accommodation of Religious Requirements, Practices, and Observances, p.10).

“Religious accommodation in the TDSB is carried out in the larger context of the secular public education system.  While the Board works to create a school system free from religious discrimination, this freedom is not absolute.  The Board will limit the practices or conduct in its schools which may put public safety, health, or the human rights and freedoms of others at risk.  As well, the Board will limit practices or conduct in its schools that is in violation of other Board policies.”

The direction and explanation with regard to filing the Declaration in the student’s OSR is as follows:

“The parent does not have a legal right to insist upon the Declaration being filed in the Ontario Student Record (the “OSR”).  In any event, the filing of the Declaration in the OSR would not give notice to all the persons they list in the Declaration.  A Principal should not file documents in an OSR that they do not understand especially when the expectations of the parent and educator differ i.e. the parent files the Declaration giving notice and stating they will sue if the Declaration is not followed contrasted with the educator who does not understand what the Declaration stands for.

Therefore, it is unfair and inappropriate to file the Declaration in the OSR.  If the Declaration were to be filed in the OSR, it could be said that all teachers, administrators, etc. have been given notice of the Declaration and that they fully understand it, accept it and are prepared to follow it.  If this is not the case, then the Declaration should not be filed in the OSR.

Also, the Ministry of Education’s OSR Guidelines state that the components of the OSR may include “additional information identified as being conducive to the improvement of the instruction of the student”. [emphasis added]   If the educators do not understand the Declaration, then it is difficult to say that it is conducive to the improvement of the instruction of the student.”

I hope these explanations are of assistance for you.



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