Mark is a 17 year old student who attends a co-educational high school. Having ‘come-out’ to his school about his sexual orientation, he takes pride in being gay. Yet life hasn’t been so easy for him. Constantly teased by his peers, he feels ostracized by former friends and shunned by his classmates. One day, he finds his locker vandalized and covered in insults. To make matters worse, one of his teachers strongly urges Mark to keep quiet on his identity in order to prevent the escalating reactions. Finding support neither from peers nor a trusted teacher, Mark grows increasingly insecure.
What are Mark’s rights? What can he do?
The rights of LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) Canadians are well protected under the Ontario Human Rights Code, as well as under Section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Recently, in June 2012, the Ontario government introduced anti-bullying legislation, known as Bill 13 or the Accepting Schools Acts 2012 that addresses bullying in publicly funded schools. This law came into force in September 2012 and is now valid and enforceable. The Act creates legal obligations for school boards and schools to prevent bullying, issue tougher consequences for bullying, and support students who want to promote understanding and respect for all. The preamble of the law recognizes that:
“[E]veryone — government, educators, school staff, parents, students and the wider community — has a role to play in creating a positive school climate and preventing inappropriate behaviour, such as bullying, sexual assault, gender-based violence and incidents based on homophobia, transphobia or biphobia”
This Act requires all school boards to support students who want to lead activities or organizations that promote the awareness and understanding of and respect for people of all sexual orientations and gender identities, including organizations with the name gay-straight alliance or another name. One important part of the law is that all schools must now allow students to form Gay-Straight-Alliances (GSAs). These groups are geared towards fighting homophobia in schools. They offer support to students who may be dealing with issues and challenges related to their sexual and/or gender identity.
Mark shouldn’t feel as if he can’t express himself. He could go speak to the Principal of his school, another teacher, his parents or someone he trusts. He has rights that should be protected and under the new Accepting Schools Act, must be protected. All students have the right to feel safe and supported in school.
For more information on Bill 13, the Accepting Schools Act: http://www.ontla.on.ca/web/bills/bills_detail.do?locale=en&BillID=2549
If you have specific legal questions relating to bullying, please contact JFCY at 416.920.1633
If you are a victim of bullying and need support, check out some of these organizations:
• Kids Help Phone: www.kidshelpphone.ca
1 800 668 6868
• LGBT Youth line: www.youthline.ca
• Bullying Canada: http://www.bullyingcanada.ca/content/239672 1-877-352-4497
For more on Gay-Straight Alliances (GSA): http://mygsa.ca
If you want to find out more about bullying and how you can help raise awareness and
prevent bullying, you can look at some of these websites:
• Web Aware on www.bewebaware.ca
• Canadian Safe Schools Network on www.canadiansafeschools.com
The scenario for this post was written by Cydney Kim a JFCY volunteer on the PLE Team. Cydney is in grade 12 at University of Toronto Schools. The legal info was written by Lauren Grossman, a first-year law student at U of T who is volunteering at JFCY through her law school’s Pro Bono Students Canada program. All info was reviewed by a JFCY staff lawyer.