Is a video of students dancing to a Lady Gaga tune cute, inspiring, empowering, and sending a positive message of acceptance? Or is it inappropriate, troubling, and questionable?
That's the debate that Burnaby Parents' Voice is trying to raise.
At issue is a video created for the Pink Project, which is aimed at encouraging acceptance of one's self and others.
Over 1,500 elementary and secondary students from schools from across the Lower Mainland learned choreography to Lady Gaga's "Born This Way". The students braved the rain to perform it outdoors for a video released just prior to the Day of Pink (February 29), which is devoted to antibullying.
But not everyone finds this video entertaining.
Burnaby Parents' Voice, a political party which arose from an ad-hoc group in opposition to the Burnaby school district's adoption of an antihomophobia policy last year, has raised concerns about their video.
In a letter to B.C. Premier Christy Clark and education minister George Abbott, Burnaby Parents' Voice criticized the Pink Project for undermining curriculum goals.
The group also questioned the appropriateness of using a Lady Gaga song by pointing out that the official music video for the song includes "simulated group sex and masturbation, semi-nudity, a birth scene, and many crotch shots." (These, of course, are not replicated by the students.)
Gordon World of Burnaby Parent's Voice was reported to have said: “Will this project reduce bullying? Not likely. They claim this sends a 'positive social message' of acceptance of self and others. Not for overweight kids, anorexic kids, or those who don’t dance well. Not those who resist their school’s promotion of Lady Gaga’s ‘sex sells’ worldview.”
All five Burnaby Parents' Voice candidates for the Burnaby School Board failed to get elected last November. Candidate Charter Lau came under fire for being linked to a Christian organization's anti-Muslim statments and posting an anti-child pornography video that contained questionable images. (Burnaby mayor Derek Corrigan, who was running for re-election with the Burnaby Citizens Association, brought attention to these connections.)
NDP and students request provincial policy
Meanwhile, the NDP joined with B.C. students to ask Premier Christy Clark to implement a provincial policy to end homophobic and transphobic bullying.
In a letter to Premier Clark, the Vancouver District Students' Council, which represents 58,000 students, cited a 2008 survey by the McCreary Centre Society that found that 25 percent of LGBT youth has been physically bullied compared to 8 percent of heterosexual youth.
Vancouver-West End MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert, the Pride Education Network, and several secondary schools also sent a letter to Premier Clark.
According to the BC Teachers' Federation; Mary-Ellen Turpel-Lafond, the Representative for Children and Youth; and the Pride Education Network, only 15 out of 60 B.C. school districts have adequate policies to address homophobic and transphobic bullying.
A 2011 study by Egale Canada found that such policies reduced reports of homophobic or transphobic bullying. Also, more than 21 percent of queer-identifying Canadian students reported being physical assaulted due to their sexual orientation, according to the report.
Day of Pink
The International Day of Pink, or Pink Shirt Day, is held on April 11. In B.C., however, it's held at the end of February on Anti-Bullying Day. This year, it's on Wednesday (February 29).
It began in Nova Scotia, when two students, Travis Price and David Shepherd, witnessed a Grade 9 student being bullied and called a homosexual for wearing a pink shirt. Price and Shepherd decided to do something about it. They bought 50 pink tanktops and got their friends to wear them to school in a show of solidarity.
Here's a video dramatizing how Day of Pink started.
If you want to support the cause, you can, of course, wear something pink on Wednesday. To do something more, there are several suggestions on the Day of Pink website. The BC Teachers' Federation website also has several suggestions for what teachers and schools can do to address and discuss this issue with students.