Richmond school trustees vote unanimously on developing policy to prevent LGBT discrimination

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      Nathan Lee and his Rainbow Club saw some sunshine through the rain on November 7.

      Lee, the president of the gay-straight alliance at Steveston-London Secondary in Richmond, and his group had launched a petition to ask the Richmond School Board for a specific, discrete (meaning separate) policy to address LGBT discrimination in schools.

      Richmond is one of the only remaining Lower Mainland school districts without one.

      The petition, part of the Safer Schools SD38 campaign, was signed by 1,080 signatories from across the Lower Mainland.

      On November 7, Lee and his group presented the petition to the Richmond School Board.

      By phone, Lee told the Georgia Straight that their presentation included details about student experiences of homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia and the impact upon students. They cited examples of  vandalism in schools, homophobic slurs heard on a daily basis, and even a substitute teacher who suggested to the Rainbow Club that they look into conversion therapy (a controversial, scientifically unproven therapy that purports to be able to change homosexual or bisexual people into heterosexuals).

      He said they also presented statistics on how a discrete policy would reduce help to rates of homophobia and suicide, even for heterosexual male students who can often be a target of homophobia. As many activists and researchers have pointed out, LGBT discrimination can be used against anyone, regardless of a person's identity.

      Lee said they also addressed concerns that policy would make students more targeted by bullying.

      "The less that we talk about it, the less that we try to address the issue, the more taboo it becomes and the worse the stigma gets," he said.

      Left to right: Safer Schools SD38 campaign leader Kaylyn Munro, Rainbow Club member Alyssa Osten (front), Rainbow Club sponsor teacher Lisa Descary (back), Rainbow Club president Nathan Lee, and Rainbow Club sponsor teachers Lisa Acosta and Andrea Shearer.

      School trustee Donna Sargent called for motion to for staff to look into the development of an antihomophobia policy and to report back with their findings.

      The motion was carried unanimously.

      According to Lee, it was a very emotional moment.

      "Everyone in the room was screaming and cheering," he said, noting that even some teachers were crying. "It was very surreal for us. We were quite surprised, and we were very happy."