Ontario students want sexual diversity in classrooms

Premier Dalton McGuinty may want to take a break from tweeting about his favourite Arcade Fire song to reflect on a recent survey that shows most Ontario students disagree with Premier Dad about sexual education.

Nearly 82 percent of the 2,600 Ontario high school students surveyed via Facebook and email by the Ontario Student Trustees’ Association (OSTA) said they thought all sexualities should be taught in school during sexual education class.

The survey of 15 public and Catholic school boards across Ontario was conducted with assistance from Scholarships Canada and Student Vote.

Asked if they’d ever been bullied in school, 46 percent of students who completed the survey said yes.

Interestingly, the board with the highest number of students who reported being bullied, nearly 60 percent, was the Ottawa-Carleton Catholic District School Board.

A few months ago, days after Xtra’s report on the Halton Catholic District School Board’s ban on gay-straight alliances provoked a provincewide storm of controversy, a report in the Ottawa Citizen lauded the efforts of the superintendent for the Ottawa Catholic School Board in welcoming gay and lesbian students. However, the board’s support for its students came with a condition:

Here in Ottawa, (Tom) D’Amico said the English Catholic school board doesn’t use the name “gay-straight alliance” because the Assembly of Ontario Bishops — to whom school boards look for spiritual guidance — prefer a name that reflects a more general focus on equity and social justice.

As our subsequent investigation revealed, social justice may be a concern, but the Catholic bishops dictate that gay identity doesn’t exist. D’Amico doesn’t mention this significant detail, prompting one Ottawa blogger to call the Ottawa Catholic board’s policy “homophobia with better PR.”

Zane Schwartz, one of the student trustees who led the survey, told The Globe and Mail the project was an attempt to demonstrate that students should be playing a larger role in shaping educational policy:

“Students are always going to be the ones that experience [policy] decisions, and I think that puts us in a unique position to report back on what’s working and what isn’t working.”

Members of the OSTA have requested a meeting to discuss the results with Minister of Education Leona Dombrowsky.

 

A student trustee from the Simcoe County District School Board has agreed to discuss the results of the survey with Xtra. We’ll update this post with her comments later today following our discussion.

Ontario Student Survey Report 2011

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