A high school student’s speech to school board trustees has motivated School District 83 to pursue more avenues for LGBTQ+ acceptance.
At their Tuesday, Nov. 19 at an SD83 board of education meeting at Carlin Elementary Middle School, trustees heard from Salmon Arm Secondary student Fiona Young. Speaking to the board on behalf of LGBTQ+ individuals, Young commended the district for its work towards acceptance but noted there is still more to be done.
“Pride stickers and basic tolerance of the community are examples of short-term solutions,” Young said. “Although they are still steps in the right direction, we need to have more than phenomenal staff and teacher initiative to make helpful, permanent change.”
Young pointed out that 64 per cent of LGBTQ+ youth in B.C. do not feel safe in school, and that LGBTQ+ youth are still targets of some other youth. To prove the point, she showed the trustees recent examples of this targeting, including a photo of a conversation that took place on the social media platform Snapchat. The conversation involved 13 to 15 people, one of which called for transgender people to be put in “insane asylums.” Another said coming out as a different gender was a way to get attention.
While critical, Young complimented SD83’s strengths, including believing in safe spaces, having wellness goals and adopting the SOGI curriculum. Young advocated for additional funding for the SOGI program, to have more queer literature in district libraries and to have more teacher seminars to educate staff on LGBTQ+ subjects. She went on to suggest other things the district could do like providing pride flags to schools, painting pride crosswalks on school property, creating safe spaces and the board officially recognizing June as pride month.
Peter Jory, superintendent of schools for SD83, took Young’s suggestions to heart.
“I was moved by a really powerful presentation by a student who was so earnest and sincere,” Jory said. “It was just a moving experience because she spoke from the heart, she spoke from her personal experience, she spoke of challenges at school and what it feels like.”
Jory reported the board has asked the district to start looking at the costs of some of the items like flags and crosswalks.