All schools, including those in the Catholic system, would be forced to allow anti-homophobic clubs to be called “gay-straight alliances” under dramatic changes to a proposed anti-bullying law.
The change of heart on the minority Liberal government’s Accepting Schools Act — which had allowed school principals a veto on names for any student club — was announced Friday afternoon by Education Minister Laurel Broten.
“We believe it’s up to the students,” she told reporters, saying it’s “important for students to have the freedom.”
The move, which has the support of the NDP, comes as an amendment to the government’s anti-bullying bill — which Broten hopes to pass before the legislature rises for its summer break June 7.
Her amendment follows legislative committee hearings on the controversial legislation, which has been a flashpoint at Queen’s Park since it was proposed following the suicides of two students last year — one gay and another with muscular dystrophy.
In a bid to curb bullying with more clout for schools to expel students who pick on others, the bill requires school boards to support student groups for “people of all sexual orientations and gender identities, including organizations with the name gay-straight alliance or another name.”
That language gave schools an escape clause when it came to naming clubs, which can be formed for any common interest or need for mutual support that students identify.
The Progressive Conservatives and some parents and religious leaders have urged the government to remove any reference to gays, lesbians or transgendered students in the bill, saying the mention infers a special status not available to other children who might be victims of bullying for other reasons.
Students have the freedom not to go to Catholic Schools. What about the freedom of parents who wish their children to be taught about chastity instead of the latest popular gender theory?