Gay kids told to stop looking so gay in order to avoid being bullied
November 22, 2012 11:23 AM   Subscribe

The Alberta School Boards Association (ASBA) has rejected a policy proposal that called for the protection of gay students and staff from bullying and discrimination. The policy was proposed by the Edmonton Public School Board (EPSB), which adopted a similar policy in 2011.

ASBA is facing criticism after nearly two-thirds of the trustees voting against approving the policy. Adding to the controversy are comments made by trustee Dale Shaffrick, who suggested that gay students should try to be less open about their sexuality "[...] for their own benefit."

EPSB chairwoman Sarah Hoffman says they are disappointed that the provincial organization didn't adopt the policy and activist Murray Billett says: "It shouldn't have been an option; it should have been automatic."

While ASBA does have generic anti-bullying policies, EPSB proposed a policy specifically focusing on anti-gay bullying for the same reason the they adopted their own policy in Edmonton: "Generic anti-bullying policies are not as effective as standalone policies to protect the safety and well-being of our sexual minority students and staff."
posted by asnider (44 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Texas North.
posted by sety at 11:31 AM on November 22, 2012 [7 favorites]

Well that's depressing. This is the sort of thing that keeps us in a world where people ever feel the need to get in a metaphorical closet in the first place.
posted by Dysk at 11:32 AM on November 22, 2012

"The Edmonton board's policy calls for ensuring the safety and well-being of sexual minority students, staff and families."

Apparently, they were pushing for protection of all GLBT people, not just gay folks. Good to hear.
posted by jiawen at 11:36 AM on November 22, 2012

Apparently, they were pushing for protection of all GLBT people, not just gay folks.

The articles I found for the FPP focus on gay students but, yes, the EPSB policy aims to protect all GLBTQ folks. I assume that, since EPSB proposed the policy at the provincial level, the one rejected by ASBA had similar aims.
posted by asnider at 11:43 AM on November 22, 2012

I'm having a really hard time figuring out what actually happened here. None of the links have much background or detail, beyond what's outlined in the post.

Apparently the first and second readings of the policy passed back on the 9th, and the third reading isn't planned until the 29th. The ASBA had their fall general meeting this week, but there's no minutes online that I can find (too early?).

Further muddying things, the government just passed Bill 3:The Education Act (pdf), which has been touted for its anti-bullying measures. The Alberta Teachers Association also seems quite positive about Sexual Orientation/Gender Identity issues.

Context, please?
posted by Orange Pamplemousse at 11:56 AM on November 22, 2012

Texas North.

Not really. Texas has Austin. With the fracking, Alberta is Mordor if you replaced the orcs with hillbillies.
posted by "Elbows" O'Donoghue at 11:56 AM on November 22, 2012 [13 favorites]

In related news: Christian Group Finds Gay Agenda in an Anti-Bullying Day
posted by homunculus at 12:06 PM on November 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Texas has Austin.

Alberta has Edmonton.

Context, please?

While the ATA is generally positive about GLBTQ issues, the Teachers' Association is separate from the school boards. It's sort of a union vs. management situation.

The ASBA is made up of locally elected trustees from the various school boards around the province. So, while the teachers may be generally opposed to homophobic bullying, as are the trustees in Edmonton, this isn't necessarily the case for trustees in other jurisdictions.

From what I've managed to gather (mostly anecdotally at this point, since I am also unable to find minutes from the meeting), the outcome of the vote was largely an urban vs. rural thing (and possibly a Catholic vs. Public thing). Even though most Albertans live in cities, with about two-thirds of the province living in Edmonton and Calgary, politics in the province is generally set up in a way that disproportionately favours rural populations. This is largely a holdover from when the province was less urbanized and tends to remain in place because it favours those currently in power.

The situation with the school boards isn't quite the same, but it is analogous. Because of they way that the regional school boards are set up, it's fairly easy for the rural boards to outvote the urban boards.
posted by asnider at 12:10 PM on November 22, 2012 [7 favorites]

Not really. Texas has Austin. With the fracking, Alberta is Mordor if you replaced the orcs with hillbillies.

Hey now, I resemble that remark.
posted by selenized at 12:12 PM on November 22, 2012 [3 favorites]

Texas North.

Canada's America.
posted by Artw at 12:22 PM on November 22, 2012 [11 favorites]

See, we have to make sure that the gays are shamed and bullied because my opinion as a homophobe is more important than their safety and happiness and also this one time I saw a dude with long hair in tight jeans and it made me feel all funny so if I even implicitly acknowledge that human sexuality is a spectrum instead of a binary thing then my whole conception of masculinity will crumble and I will not be able to place myself atop the imaginary hierarchy set up in my head by Jesus.

It's so hard to be a straight man these days. I'm gonna go beat up someone different from me to make myself feel better.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 12:41 PM on November 22, 2012 [5 favorites]

As an Edmontonian, this whole development is mortifying--even if it is an outlier among the governmental bodies involved in educational policy.

But rural areas have had a weird, draggy effect on our educational policy for a long time. And boy is that demographic loud and insistent about their wants: Early this year a huge fuss was kicked up amongst the religious home schooler set when a prior provincial bill even dared to mention that educational materials should respect the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
posted by whittaker at 12:46 PM on November 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

They want to mandate protection for gay kids, but what about smelly, fat kids... y'know, the one's that the gay kids pick on.
posted by weezy at 12:46 PM on November 22, 2012 [3 favorites]

Can't the individual schools enact their own rules?
posted by Brocktoon at 12:46 PM on November 22, 2012

Brocktoon: they can and are in urban areas. The problem is it leaves poor kids in nowhere-Beaumont shit outta luck because the policy isn't applied over the entire province.
posted by whittaker at 12:49 PM on November 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Seriously. There is more to this province than hicks and oil and rednecks and Texas.

This initiative for one thing. And also same sex marriage has been available there since 2006. So don't rush to snap judgements about what's possible or even what is inevitable in Alberta.
posted by salishsea at 12:51 PM on November 22, 2012 [3 favorites]

Alberta is not Texas. I don't know why 2/3 of the trustees voted against this (the articles are short and lacking information), but religion is not really a force in government here. We have slash spending+lower taxes+guns type conservatives here, not so much the bible thumping kind. At least, not more than rural populations elsewhere in the country.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 12:55 PM on November 22, 2012

Can't the individual schools enact their own rules?

Of course. And in some ways, this is all a lot of sound and fury, but it still signifies something. The fact that an organization comprised of all of the school boards in the province refuses to recognize the need to protect sexual minorities from discrimination means that individual schools (and boards) can choose not to protect those kids because, hey, there's no blanket policy covering the entire province.

So, while this doesn't prevent individual schools and school boards from enacting their own policies, it implies that such policies are unnecessary and possibly even undesirable.


I hope that you don't think that is the intention of this thread. I am an Albertan, and generally proud of it, but this sort of thing makes me shake my head. I created the FPP because I thought it was interesting news that would generate a good discussion, not because I wanted an excuse for people to post a bunch of lolAlberta comments.
posted by asnider at 12:56 PM on November 22, 2012 [10 favorites]

Yeah, on that front, Alberta--as the most conservative province in Canada--ranks as slightly more liberal than Massachusetts on the social values scale according to about twenty years of Environics polls*. It's only "Texas" relative to its federal context.

Plus it had the first mosque built in Canada and the second one built in the entirety of North America as well as the first elected practicing Muslim mayor in the country. There's lots of ways it can't be easily equated to Texas.
posted by whittaker at 12:58 PM on November 22, 2012 [9 favorites]

how is this surprising?

they can't even decided whether they have the balls to fail kids or not. (which in my opinion they should)

this school board has no clue what the word accountability is.

sometimes I look at what's going on in Alberta (my home) and my only reaction is lolAlberta.
posted by 12bits at 1:09 PM on November 22, 2012

12bits: umm, if I remember correctly the school board in question that allowed a discretionary "no zeroes" policy at the school-level is the board that's advocating for GLBT protections.
posted by whittaker at 1:15 PM on November 22, 2012 [3 favorites]

Here's hoping this leads to a continuation of the proud Canadian tradition (well, we did it once....) of turning incidents of victim-shaming into a world-wide protest movement.
posted by sadmarvin at 1:24 PM on November 22, 2012

I hear you asnider...was just disappointed that the first comment (and the most recent) in the thread was Texas North/lolAlberta. This issue is more interesting and more important that that.

Thanks for the FPP.
posted by salishsea at 1:40 PM on November 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

It's nice that they have a place to go be, so I don't have to interact with them when visiting fun cities in Ontario and British Columbia.

Yeah, the fun places that vote in progressive people like Nenshi and governments that cover the cost of gender reassignment surgery instead of those backwards conservative like Rob Ford and Christie Clark that Albertans keep voting in. Stupid Alberta!
posted by sadmarvin at 1:45 PM on November 22, 2012 [8 favorites]

whittaker: the fact they even made it discretionary is a joke imo. If you miss an assignment or fail an exam, welcome to the real world, its called failing.

I think all kids should be protected the same from bullying regardless of their sexuality, it seems almost counter-productive having different set of standards for one group vs another.

posted by 12bits at 2:00 PM on November 22, 2012

So, did the Education Act pass with the Human Rights stuff intact, or did homeschoolers successfully win the "right" to raise their kids in Nazi bubbles like they've apparently always wanted?
posted by Sys Rq at 2:21 PM on November 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Sys Rq: It passed even with specific language that said that parents have a right to tell their children any sort of hateful thing they like. The home schoolers still complained.
posted by whittaker at 2:22 PM on November 22, 2012

posted by Sys Rq at 2:23 PM on November 22, 2012

Not to derail my own thread, but the no zero policy doesn't mean that the student automatically passes. It means that they aren't evaluated on work the teacher hasn't seen. Evaluations are supposed to evaluate the student's knowledge. You can't determine a student's knowledge if you haven't seen their work.

However, as my many teacher friends have explained to me, just because you can't give a student a zero doesn't mean that they automatically pass the course if they don't do the work. In order to pass, they generally need to "exhibit understanding of course material" or something along those lines. If they haven't completed any assignments, they probably haven't exhibited an understanding of the material. But, if they get a 98% on the final exam, they are typically allowed to pass because they have demonstrated that they do understand the material even if they didn't complete any assignments during the school year.

Will they be in for a harsh awakening when they get into the real world and discover that you lose your job if you don't complete your assignments? Possibly. But the school curriculum basically boils down to demonstrating an understanding of the things you've been taught. And the curriculum isn't designed to teach kids accountability or social behaviours (although, they generally will learn those things in school, albeit indirectly).
posted by asnider at 2:27 PM on November 22, 2012 [6 favorites]

Thank you, asnider for stepping in to explain. At this point I'm too burned out on the catchphrases and overgeneralizations that have gripped Edmonton, its citizens, and its media on the 'no zeros' policy to try to explain the nuances to yet another person.
posted by whittaker at 2:33 PM on November 22, 2012 [3 favorites]

Alberta isn't the hickville people let on, but it does have things like Christ the Redeemer school board, which got in the news several years ago for wanting to put up a wall to separate catholic students from public students.
posted by furtive at 2:37 PM on November 22, 2012

Alberta school trustee apologizes for suggesting gay students act less gay.

Hmm... I wish the article had included his actual apology. This one does.

Parsing that apology (which I think is a reasonable thing to do for all so-called apologies), I don't find it that sincere.

Specifically: "“It’s my own fault, the way I said it,” Schaffrick continued. “It was very easy to take a different meaning, so I accept full responsibility.”"

So what in the heck does that mean? He doesn't clarify what the actual sentiments he was supposedly attempting to communicate. I read that as "I'm sorry if anyone was offended by what I said".

Bigots are often times sorry when people figure out they are bigots.
posted by el io at 2:54 PM on November 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

Schaffrick's apology has been posted to the website of the school board he represents. The Chair of his board has also issued a statement.
posted by asnider at 3:07 PM on November 22, 2012

Something else I wish was talked about more in the discussions about bullying.

The term is quite vague and encompasses a wide range of both speech and behavior. Personally I think it's unreasonable to expect the school to police students speech (particularly when no adults are present), although I would be happy if teachers/administration punished students equally for saying 'faggot' to a student as they do when saying 'fuck you' to a teacher.

That being said, it seems as if the word 'bullying' is often used to mean 'criminal battery', and I don't think that's useful. The word then is used to mask what we are really talking about - violent battery. I would hope that if we were instead to have discussions about 'we should stop violent assaults against GLBT students' there wouldn't be anyone from the homophobic side that would dare argue this point.

In these contexts, when a school says that they won't enact an anti-bullying policy towards GLBT students, I often read that as saying "we will continue to tolerate the assault of our GLBT students".

If we started placing criminal responsibility on those that are covering up and not-reporting these violent assaults, I imagine that they would be drastically reduced, real quickly.
posted by el io at 3:08 PM on November 22, 2012

Dang but there are a lot of Albertan Mefites. Surprised, and, I must say, somewhat cheered.
posted by LD Feral at 7:58 PM on November 22, 2012

Fuck me. I had like a 1000 word response written out, but my browser shat on it. The quick points, sadly without all the references:
I'm having a really hard time figuring out what actually happened here.

Your first two links are from last year about the Edmonton Public school board, the second largest in the province adopting their specific anti-gay-bullying policy (distinct from the general anti-bullying policy, which already includes sexual orientation). A similar GLBTT specific policy [PDF: Page 27] was being proposed at the general meeting of the ASBA, which is all the school boards. Each school board gets one vote; there are 66 school boards, with 45% of the students attending the four largest. Also, as a legacy of Canadian Confederation in 1867, Alberta has both Public and Separate (read: Catholic) school boards everywhere. So the ASBA membership is 90% rural and 50% Catholic, even though the province is more like 40% rural (and small-city) and 30% Catholic.

Many school boards have anti-bullying codes of conduct, and these frequently mention sexual orientation explicitly. These include the Calgary Public (the largest in the province) and the Calgary Catholic (the largest Catholic board). It also includes the largest rural board, Chinook's Edge, and the small, rural Pembina Hills school board that the "don't look gay" bigot trustee is a member of. His idiot remarks have probably helped prove the case that, yeah, an additional policy specifically addressing bullying of GLBTT students is needed.

On the LOLAlberta and Texas of the North stuff:
I mean, I've used Texas as a comparison too, but it only makes sense in comparison to the rest of Canada -- jumbo shrimp are still small. Specifically on same sex marriage (which is more widely studied than bullying, but I think may be a proxy):

US states' support for SSM ranges from 35% in the South Central (TX-KY-AL and points in between) region to 62% in New England, a full 10% behind Alberta, which is at 72%. 0.26% of Alberta households are same-sex married, slightly behind the 0.3% national figure, but ahead of 48 of 50 states (behind MA, VT and occupied non-state DC).

We may be the Texas of the North in relative terms, but (in some dimensions at least) calling us the California or Massachusetts of the North understates how liberal we are in absolute terms.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 8:41 PM on November 22, 2012 [6 favorites]

Your first two links are from last year about the Edmonton Public school board

No. The first link is about the current ASBA situation. The second link is the EPSB policy, which was passed last year, so you're right about that one.
posted by asnider at 9:45 PM on November 22, 2012

No. The first link is about the current ASBA situation. The second link is the EPSB policy, which was passed last year, so you're right about that one.

I was quoting Orange Pamplemousse, who had two news links from last year in the "passed back on the 9th" bit of their post waay back there, and it seemed to me like they had thought the articles to be from this year, hence confusion.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 11:09 PM on November 22, 2012

Ah. Sorry about that.
posted by asnider at 6:29 AM on November 23, 2012

Wait, it's not 2011?

posted by Orange Pamplemousse at 7:36 AM on November 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

An acquaintance of mine, who's now at U of Alberta doing her phd, did her master's thesis on Alberta youth engagement with regards to one of the recent-ish bills about sexual orientation in schools (I think about the teaching thereof?)

I'll have to drop her a line and see if I can get her to comment.

the short version is that the kids are incredibly engaged and trying to effect change, but the government structure / etc makes that really difficult for kids.
posted by Lemurrhea at 9:43 AM on November 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Here's a BC Shout out to support sadmarvin: Yay Nenshi!.

BC has lots of great advocates for gay rights, but we have had our own failures on this issue. I remember the big kerfuffle about One dad two dad being in the school library in Abbotsford!

Let's keep on moving forward!
posted by chapps at 11:45 PM on November 23, 2012

I think one thing I'd like to stress when talking about the social/political climate of Alberta with regards to issues like this is that frequently public perception does not reflect the facts of the situation. Look at Justin Trudeau's comments about Alberta: in his apology, he said that he shouldn't refer to an entire region of people based on one person from that area, but Stephen Harper isn't from Alberta. He was born and raised in the Greater Toronto Area, and didn't move to Alberta until he was an adult, but by that time most of his fundamental values would have already been formed by his time growing up in the GTA.

By contrast, another super-prominent Alberta politician, Joe Clark, opposed Harper's takeover of the Conservative party and worried that it would lead to social conservatism. Clark disliked Harper's brand of conservatism so much that he started endorsing various NDP and Liberal MPs, arguing that they would lead to a stronger government.

This is just a small example, but if you look more deeply into Alberta's social and political climate, you'll find that it's a similar story that plays out all over the province. I grew up in rural Alberta, on an acreage an hour out of Edmonton, and I got to know all sorts of folk, from university professors to farmers. Where I was raised, some of the biggest issues I heard about when politicians came out to try and get our vote were the rising costs of healthcare and concerns about the environment. This may not be completely representative of rural Alberta (there was a rather odd blip of university profs living in my county—not sure why there were, but it always made for fun times). I also spent a lot of my youth in Edmonton and the surrounding suburbs, and would always be frustrated by the number of Conservatives that got elected, but because I was in the University area, I'd often be represented by a Liberal or NDP MLA or (if we were lucky) MP.

I'm now living in Lethbridge, and I have to say that I see a very different side of Alberta. The city itself is fairly liberal (my riding was *this* close to voting in an NDP MLA last provincial election, and I'm 90% sure she would've won if the classes had still been in at the University), but is surrounded by many of the places that went Wild Rose in the provincial election. Interestingly, Harper's Conservatives supported the WRP in the election, but you'll notice that almost all of the province aside from southern Alberta roundly rejected that party. I don't want to transfer that rejection over to the federal Conservatives, as they still get voted in, but clearly there's a lot of tension. While the province may lean conservative, as you can clearly see the majority of the population voted along the more progressive side of things when presented with a highly conservative option.

Now, this has strayed quite a bit from asnider's original topic, but I think it's worth saying: when we conflate our notions of Alberta with the outcome of various political processes (such as the rejection of these anti-bullying measures) we overlook all of the actual diversity that exists within the province. We also miss out on one of the major troubles in the province—the rural/urban divide, which has a great shaping effect on politics and the resultant public policy. I know it's more fun to just go lolAlberta, but that simply doesn't represent the province socially or politically.
posted by sadmarvin at 6:55 AM on November 24, 2012 [6 favorites]

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