Trillium Lakelands District School Board has launched a positive space initiative as part of Ontario’s Equity and Inclusive Education Strategy. This campaign is one way we make our buildings safe, inclusive, and welcoming places that are respectful of gender and sexual diversity.
A positive space plaque has been developed for all TLDSB schools as a visible representation of the initiative. There will be discussions at every school between the principal, staff, and school council to determine the initial placement of the plaque. The plaque says “This is a place where all people are respected, and where lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and two-spirited people, and their families, friends, and allies are welcomed and supported.”Language and education that is age and stage appropriate will be embedded in curriculum and used when explaining terms from the positive space plaque. All TLDSB staff and students are expected to show respect for all members of their school community.
Here are the facts:
- LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer) students from schools with anti-homophobia school policies report significantly fewer incidents of sexual orientation related physical and verbal harassment.
- LGBTQ youth are four times more likely to commit suicide than their heterosexual peers and nine time more likely when they have been rejected by their heterosexual families.
- The invisibility of a stigmatized identity forces LGBTQ individuals into making a choice and hiding and suppressing who they are or risking repercussions for “coming out”.
- Unlike other minority groups who receive support from family and friends, LGBTQ individuals are frequently rejected and shamed by their loved ones and those closest to them.
- Sexual orientation is largely misunderstood and thought to be a lifestyle choice, that one could discard.
- Defining terms such as ‘transgender’ or ‘bisexual’ is explaining identity and attraction, not sexual behaviour.
- Results from a national survey of Canadian high school students (Egale Canada, May 2011) on the experiences of sexual and gender minority status students include:
- 70 percent of all participating students reported hearing expressions such as “that’s so gay” in school;
- Almost half of students reported hearing other homophobic comments;
- 64 percent of LGBTQ students and 61 percent of students with LGBTQ parents report feeling unsafe at school;
- One in 12 heterosexual youth report being verbally harassed about their perceived sexual orientation;
- 58 percent of non-LGBTQ students find homophobic comments upsetting;
- 37 percent of youth with LGBTQ parents report being verbally harassed (27 percent report physical harassment) about the sexual orientation of their parents.
Find Out More
You’ll find many useful links for students, parents, and educators on our positive school climate website:
TLDSB Document: Creating a Positive Space: Supporting our Transgender Students
A welcoming environment in our schools is important for all students. Schools may have transgender students but not know it yet. A transgender student may perceive the environment to be unsafe and unwelcoming. It is not okay for transgender students to be invisible in our schools. TLDSB BD – 2101 Equity and Inclusive Education Procedure explicitly states:
To achieve an equitable and inclusive school environment, the school board and schools will strive to ensure that all members of the school community feel safe, comfortable, and
accepted. We want all staff and students to value diversity and demonstrate respect for others and a commitment to establishing a just, caring society.
There are many things school staff can do to be supportive and to provide a welcoming and safe environment for all students, including transgender students. Most changes are easy to implement, simple, and require no new resources. It begins with creating awareness amongst staff and students, working from a vision of providing quality, inclusive learning environments for all students.
It is important to remember that all students have a right to privacy. Unless specifically directed by the student, schools must keep a student’s transgender/gender status confidential. This knowledge is shared only with those who need to know to fulfill a specific accommodation, or if the student requests it.
Frequently Asked Questions
TLDSB believes in safe and caring school communities. It is important that all students, including our youngest students, learn to respect differences. Students and staff need to see themselves reflected in the language used in classrooms and in the school. For example, parent permission forms could change from saying “mother” and “father” to “parent 1” and “parent 2” as some of our students have two fathers or two mothers in their family unit. This change also accommodates the needs of many families where children are raised by individuals other than their mother or father. Positive Space is only one component of the Equity and Inclusive Education strategy. Since 2009, TLDSB has been working on a number of inclusive education initiatives including religious accommodation, aboriginal education, sexual orientation, and socio-economic status, to promote a safe and caring school climate for all.
There will be discussions at every school between the principal, staff, and school council to determine the initial placement of the plaque with the eventual goal of prominent placement. Staff and others who feel knowledgeable and/or open to conversations about LGBT issues may voluntarily display Positive Space stickers.
The wording in the Positive Space plaque does include all members of the school community – family, friends, and allies. Positive Space is one of many initiatives the school board is implementing to promote a safe and caring school climate for all. This includes providing ongoing training and resources in character development, aboriginal rights, religious accommodation, and accessibility rights.
Some negative experiences are unique to sexual orientation and gender minority groups. It is important to provide a school climate that breaks through any fear and stigma so that students feel safe enough to ask for help. The rainbow colours and the term “Positive Space” on the plaque are recognized around the world as LGBTQ symbols. The wording in the Positive Space plaque includes all members of the school community – family, friends, and allies.
Schools educate about homophobia and inclusive environments. Children as young as four or five are heard on the playground making statements such as “that’s so gay,” not realizing that this is a hurtful thing to say. Children arrive in our schools with parents or family members who are LGBT, and should find themselves reflected in our schools from the onset of their educational careers. Language and education that is age and stage appropriate will be used when explaining terms from the Positive Space plaque and will be embedded in curriculum.
LGBTQ is not a lifestyle or a choice in the same way that being heterosexual is not a choice. It is important to provide a school climate that breaks through any fear and stigma so that students feel safe enough to ask for help.
Positive Space is one of many initiatives the school board is implementing to promote a safe and caring school climate for all. It is part of Ontario’s Equity and Inclusive Education Strategy. All TLDSB students are expected to show respect for all members of their school community.