Amid Pride celebrations across Saskatchewan, experts are concerned about the provincial government’s decision to increase funding for some independent schools run by churches with anti-LGBTQ policies.
Last month, the province officially announced the 21 independent schools and four “historic” schools in Saskatchewan that will receive $17.5 million in operating grants for the 2022-23 school year. According to the latest provincial budget, this includes $2.6 million for a new “certified independent school” category. The province says which schools will fall under the new category have yet to be determined.
“We are committed to providing grants to our historic high schools and our independent schools so parents and students continue to have more choice in education,” Education Minister Dustin Duncan said in a statement. a press release on May 11.
Dr. Tamara Hinz, a child psychiatrist in Saskatoon, is among those who recently responded to Duncan.
“It really worries me. I don’t think we can begin to estimate the damage it can cause,” Hinz said, noting that she first heard about it on social media from the blogger and commentator. Saskatchewan politician, Tammy Robert.
“As a mental health professional, I already know the excessive burden these children face; 50% of LGBTQ children experience bullying and are much more likely to attempt or commit suicide.”
In a letter to the minister, Hinz pointed to those statistics and Saskatoon’s Westgate Heights Academy, which — according to the school’s website — is run by the Westgate Alliance Church.
This church’s Discipline and Restoration Policy states that “homosexuality” is in “violation of scriptural moral standards” and amounts to crimes such as fraud and sexual assault.
In an emailed statement, the Reverend Frank Jeske, senior pastor and principal of the academy, told CBC News that this document only pertains to members of the Westgate Alliance Church.
“The school, its teachers and its students are not members of the church and therefore this policy does not apply to the school,” Jeske wrote.
“To suggest otherwise is false and misleading.”
Jeske adds that “Westgate Alliance welcomes all people, regardless of ethnicity or personal lifestyle.”
Yet LGBTQ lawyer and community member Morgan Moats questions why the government is funding organizations with homophobic policies to run schools.
“They have a right to their religious beliefs – it’s a freedom we have in Canada, absolutely,” they said, but added that taxpayers’ money should be kept away from schools linked to the ‘church.
NDP Education Critic Matt Love says there’s no reason anti-LGBTQ sentiments should be tolerated in 2022, but notes there’s no “solution.” global” when it comes to giving money to independent schools.
But, as many school divisions in Saskatchewan are having to cut teaching positions due to budget shortfalls, he says that money could be better spent on filling those gaps in public education.
Duncan, the Minister for Education, was not made available for an interview. But a ministry statement to CBC News says all qualified independent schools are “visited and closely monitored”. Teachers are also supervised at least three times per school year and are required to submit their lesson plans and lesson plans, he said.
The ministry also says the Education Act “allows parents of multiple faiths to educate their children in accordance with their conscience beliefs.”
The statement also mentions that “the decision to enroll a student rests with the parent or guardian.”
The power of a nurturing school environment
Adding to the opposition, Raylee Perkins, a teacher-librarian at Regina Public Schools, pointed to the province’s Deepening the Discussion: Gender and Sexual Diversity framework. This 2015 document commits to making all schools in Saskatchewan “safe and inclusive environments for all students, including those who identify as gender and/or sexually diverse.”
It’s something she wants all Saskatchewan educators, no matter where they teach, to keep in mind.
For her part, Perkins says she always makes sure to include her pronouns on her library doors and decorate the room with LGBTQ symbols, like Pride and transgender flags — because, for many, it’s the sign that they can be themselves.
“When a student walks in and looks at me and he knows that I’m going to be a friend to him or a friend to someone he knows or a friend to his family, his whole demeanor changes,” she said. Explain.
“I don’t even have to say anything.”
As someone who openly identifies as queer at school, Perkins says she knows the value of creating safe environments.
“We know that [LGBTQ] children exist – whether they’re out or willing to be out or safe – they’re in your building, we’re in your spaces all the time,” she said.
“There is this misconception that you only need to teach about these LGBTQ-specific topics if you have a student or family openly in your classroom or in your community, but the reality is that everyone should find out more.”
Trina Crawford agrees.
As an elementary school teacher and parent of a transgender person, she says it’s essential that schools are there to teach children about the LGBTQ community in order to end homophobia and transphobia from a young age. age.
“It can be the difference between choosing suicide or not committing suicide for a child,” Crawford said.
“I think a lot of people think, ‘Well, I don’t know anyone who’s gay and I don’t know anyone who’s trans’, and they’re wrong…they just haven’t been safe to date. “