Gender and sexuality-related bullying and harassment should not be as tolerated in Island schools as it is today, a legislative committee said Friday.
PEERS Alliance presented to the Education and Economic Development Committee and provided recommendations on how the situation could be improved for LGBTQ youth in the province’s school system.
“Middle school is tough enough… when you have that isolation and bullying that happens to you in schools, I mean, it’s really horrible,” Youth Program Coordinator Vanessa Bradley told CBC News. after the presentation.
“We just talked about how young people felt and noticed when they were bullied and harassed for gender issues and their gender identity.”
Island youth share their experience
In preparation, PEERS spoke with members of its youth group to learn more about their specific experiences.
“I went out two years ago and had a few people telling everyone I was pretending to be transgender,” one student wrote.
“I’ve been bullied my whole life for something I can’t control. I get insulted walking in the hallways and it’s worse outside where there are no teachers. C ‘is something no one should go through, “wrote a second student.
It is really naive and simply wrong to say that there are no gay children in a certain school.– Scott Alan, PEERS Alliance.
Another described an experience where they informed their teacher about their change of name and pronouns. The teacher replied that they would not accept the name and pronouns until another adult told them they “must”.
“A lot of these people don’t have a place to express themselves in any way, which leads to depression which leads to mental health issues, trauma,” said Scott Alan, the another PEERS youth coordinator. .
“Avoiding a lot of that would be really important. “
Recommendations to eradicate harassment, bullying
The group had several recommendations for the committee:
Name and address this specific type of bullying in policies, which should be more than just guidelines, which can be considered optional.
Attach an evaluation plan to the new one gender identity guidelines.
Identify and train a visible champion of diversity in each school, who serves as a resource person and resource for LGBTQ youth and other teachers and staff.
Update the curriculum to include current information about LGBTQ people in subjects such as history and sex education.
Make training on these subjects compulsory for teachers and staff, instead of being optional as is currently the case.
“The big problem is that there is no policy imposing the gender diversity guidelines that the Public Schools Branch has rolled out,” Bradley said.
“There is nothing that really compels teachers or schools to put these guidelines into practice, and on top of that, I have found that young people feel that there is no justice for them in bullying and harassment. Basically when they are intimidated there is no action. “
Undifferentiated severity in the discipline
Bradley told the committee how PSB policies currently fail to recognize the difference between vulgar or inappropriate language, like swearing, and the use of targeted slurs when it comes to disciplining bullies.
“There is certainly anger in both, but there is a lot of identity hatred in the slurs,” she said.
“[LGBTQ youth] certainly feel isolated, and they don’t feel like the adults in their life can help or protect them or even care about them, and in many ways that creates a feeling of loneliness. “
PEERS said in his experience that this is felt most acutely by young people in more rural areas of the province.
“Your zip code shouldn’t create an entirely different learning experience than someone else’s,” Bradley said.
PEER also used this argument to reinforce the need for spaces and supportive communities within each of the schools, similar to what it offers with its Queer Youth Collective, which meets in Charlottetown and Summerside twice a year. month.
“It is really naive and simply wrong to say that there are no gay children in a certain school… there are young gay men in all the schools in Prince Edward Island” Alan said.
“Creating these spaces in every school would really, in the end, save lives.”
The presenters also addressed the August report of the incidents at the East Wiltshire school in the spring which resulted in the suspension of seven students for homophobic bullying.
PEERS said the report presents a “frightening” reality: that adults perpetuate and encourage homophobic bullying in the school system.
Responding to a question from the committee, PEERS said it had not yet been contacted by the Public Schools Branch as part of the report’s recommendations.