Thames Valley board vows to ‘continue to support’ LGBTQ2+ students – The London Free Press

On the heels of London’s annual Pride Festival, the Thames Valley District School Board announced that it will continue to recognize LGBTQ2+ students and families in the classroom despite the repeal of the updated 2015 sexual education curriculum.

As part of his campaign, Premier Doug Ford committed to repealing the updated curriculum — which was introduced by the Ontario Liberals — and replacing it with a new one after consultations with parents.

School boards are being told to teach the previous version of the curriculum from 1998 until a new one is formed.

But Matt Reid, chairperson of the TVDSB, said the old curriculum did not address LGBTQ2+ issues like gender identity and sexual orientation and that until new curriculum documents are provided to the board, teachers will continue to follow the 2015 one.

“We are going to continue to support members of the LGBTQ2+ community and make sure no student in our board feels like they are excluded or don’t belong,” Reid said. “Quite honestly, until we actually get the (new) documents, teachers will continue to teach the 2015 curriculum.”

Reid said that when they eventually receive the curriculum, he knows many teachers that said they will use it as a foundation, and will go beyond that to address LGBTQ2+ issues if needed.

He also said he is trying to figure out if teachers will face any consequences if they do go beyond the curriculum, noting that they usually don’t for other subjects.

“We’re going to ensure teachers are meeting the needs of their local students,” Reid said. “They would be empowered and encouraged to continue on.”

Christopher Keel, 21, is a transgender male who attended London South Collegiate Institute and won a Rainbow Youth Leadership Bursary for his contributions to the LGBTQ2+ community in 2017.

Keel said he came out at the age of 16. He said that while he had support from some teachers and students, he found that there were others who bullied him or did not address him by his preferred pronouns.

“Some students reacted badly to me because they didn’t understand it and some people react by being angry,” Keel said. “I think if there was some more education that would have been very nice.”

Keel said when he heard about the 2015 curriculum, he wished he had something like that when he was younger.

“Young people are still aware of themselves . . . they’re still learning . . . and they deserve to get the education they need to figure themselves out and feel like they’re not alone,” Keel said.

He said when he heard about the repeal, he was very angry because society is still progressing and “there’s still so much to do.”

Keel said that while he appreciates TVDSB’s commitment to the LGBTQ2+ community, he worries that since teaching about issues related to it aren’t mandated any more, not every teacher will do it.

“It’s a good thing they’re saying that but then it comes down to if they’re going to follow through,” Keel said.

Another former TVDSB student, Carlie Thompson, attended Parkside Collegiate Institute in St. Thomas and said she was lucky to have a positive experience when she came out as bisexual in Grade 9. But she also noted that as a cisgendered, white, able-bodied female her experience may not be representative of everyone’s.

“I know other people who went to other schools in our area didn’t have that same openness,” Thompson said.

She said she thinks being taught at a young age about LGBTQ2+ issues is important because “it teaches people to be kind to others,” and helps those that might fall under that umbrella.

“I think everyone should get that information to maintain a safe atmosphere,” Thompson said.

Keel said that he wishes teachers could be given some sort of resources to ensure that what they will be teaching is accurate and that teachers feel comfortable educating students about LGBTQ2+ issues.

Both Keel and Thompson said they appreciated events like Pride London Festival that serve as a celebration but also as an education tool for the community.

The statement from TVDSB which was jointly issued by Reid and Education Director Laura Elliot on Thursday, said the school board has not received details of the new curriculum yet and will communicate it to the public when it does.

It also said the board will “uphold its responsibilities and obligations under the Ontario Human Rights Code, the Education Act and Board policies to ensure respect, inclusion and safety of all.”