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Westminister Secondary School students Sabrina Friskie, centre, Jennifer House, right and Amal Jama are part of London Ontario school's Upstander campaign, an anti-bullying effort. (GEOFF ROBINS For The Globe and Mail)
Westminister Secondary School students Sabrina Friskie, centre, Jennifer House, right and Amal Jama are part of London Ontario school's Upstander campaign, an anti-bullying effort. (GEOFF ROBINS For The Globe and Mail)

Globe Editorial

Ontario's anti-bully strategy not radical, and not about sex, but tolerance Add to ...

When Canadian teenagers commit suicide because they are bullied, and they are bullied because of their sexual orientation, it is the job of educators, parents and society to help protect them. To end their needless suffering. To keep them alive.

If gay-straight support groups in Ontario schools succeed in preventing even one student from taking his or her own life, then such alliances are worthwhile. The Ontario Liberal government’s new anti-bullying legislation requires public school boards to support these alliances, in the hopes that they will help vulnerable students feel less isolated, and will help prevent homophobia.

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And yet, an organization that purports to “be a think tank dedicated to advancing knowledge of public policy from a Judeo-Christian perspective” believes that the legislation is wrong. That the bill is not, in fact, an effort to prevent bullying, but “a radical sex education agenda”. The Institute for Canadian Values predicts a mass exodus of children from the public and separate school systems as a result of the bill, without offering any data to support this conclusion. (The bill, in fact, already contains a questionable compromise for Catholic schools, noting that while all schools must support gay-straight student support groups, these alliances do not have to be known by this label.)

The bill doesn’t talk at all about sex. It does note that for all students to feel safe at school, the climate must be inclusive, accepting and equitable. Students must learn to include those who are different in any way, including those who question their sexuality, or who already identify as gay or bisexual. This is hardly a “radical sex education agenda”.

Will parents really rise up and opt to pay $10,000-$30,000 a year for their children to attend a private school so they can avoid being taught not to be guided by prejudice and hate, and not to bully others who are different through no fault or choice of their own?

Inclusion and tolerance are appropriate educational goals. Legislation which supports the prevention of bullying of students is sound public policy. There is nothing radical -- or sexual -- about this.

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