Me! Me! Me! – Catholic school board responds to student’s homophobia allegations
A French Catholic school board says allegations of homophobia filed by a student with Ontario’s Human Rights Tribunal are “groundless.”
Christopher Karas, a grade 12 student at Mississauga Catholic high school, École Secondaire Catholique Sainte-Famille, submitted a list of complaints of alleged discrimination to the Tribunal in February. Karas said he’s experienced repeated homophobic sentiments and actions on the part of school teachers and administrators.
The board, Conseil scolaire de district catholique Centre-Sud (CSDCCS), submitted their response on April 16 and denied any discriminatory practice on their part.
“There was no violation of the Human Rights Code and no redress is due to the student,” said a statement from CSDCCS.
In Karas’ complaint, he said a teacher had refused to include same-sex couples as an example of family structures and another teacher had said same-sex couples should not have the right to adopt children. He also said he’d witnessed teachers not intervening when homophobic language was used by his peers in the classroom.
The school board countered that in their statement, saying “No member of the staff of the ESCSF used discriminatory or homophobic language in the classroom. Quite the contrary, the staff did everything possible to offer the student its support and to intervene in cases of discriminatory language or conduct on the part of the other students.”
Karas also said part of his curriculum included the novel Poison, a novel by Doric Germain in which a character beats his son for having same-sex sexual contact and uses homophobic language. In addition to objecting to the content, Karas said teachers did not address the way gay people are portrayed in the novel. In their statement, the CSDCCS said the book and the associated teachings “are aimed at encouraging critical thinking” and “Neither the book nor the evaluations of it are in any way intended to encourage acceptance of a homophobic message.”
The student also helped found a school club called Porte Ouverte (Open Door) under Ontario’s Bill 13, also known as the Accepting Schools Act. Made into law in 2012, the act stipulates that publicly-funded schools, whether public or Catholic, must allow students to create clubs that promote awareness and respect for people of all sexual orientations and gender identities, whether they’re called “gay-straight alliances” or not.
Karas intended his group to be a safe space for students to discuss a range of issues but, according to his complaint, officials stalled the group’s creation for over a year and a half. Once it was established, Karas said a vice-principal wanted the phrasing of a poster, using a quote from Harvey Milk, changed.
The board has maintained that poster dispute was merely a procedural issue. “The ESCSF and the CSDCCS welcome and respect students of every sexual orientation. This was in no way a case of censorship,” said their statement.
Karas is seeking a letter of apology, $25,000 in compensation, as well as agreements from the board to give staff sensitivity training and create gender-neutral washrooms.
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