Background: (Bill 13 ; Accepting School Act)
IN November 2011, the Government of Ontario introduced Bill 13, the Accepting Schools Act . (1) This legislation is presented under the guise of “making schools safe and accepting places to learn” by implementing amendments to the Education Act intended to address the issue of bullying in Ontario schools.
Since then, Bill 13 has been criticized by many Ontarians as favouring the interests of a few; specifically, the LGBT communities. Even media have been critical. Christina Blizzard stated, “… the new law has been hijacked by special interests who are more concerned about getting gay/straight alliances in schools than they are in dealing with bullying.” (2)
The Bill begins with very inclusive language, stating that “all students should feel safe at school and deserve a positive school climate that is inclusive and accepting, regardless of race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, sex, sexual orientation, age, marital status, family status or disability.”
However, it then makes a statement that provides special treatment for four groups. Schools must form clubs that promote gender equity, anti-racism, awareness for people with disabilities, and gay-straight alliances. It is assumed that such clubs lead to a more inclusive environment. The government does not provide evidence to this effect and there are varying opinions that specific clubs elevate the status of certain groups, leading to reverse discrimination of others.
In her second reading speech, Minister of Education Laurel Broten uses research to highlight the needs of the homosexual community. It is interesting to note that the same research states that the most common reason for bullying is physical appearance – being overweight, skinny, having a unique facial feature, etc (3). Is the issue of homosexuality and gender identify more important, or is this legislation a response to pressure from the LGBT communities?
The research data selected by MPP Broten also indicate that two-thirds of homosexual students do not feel comfortable at school. The same research demonstrates that about 1.7% of students self-identify as homosexuals as adults. In a school of 1000 students she is referring to 2/3rds of 17 students, or 11 in total. The same research shows that of the entire student population, almost 1/3 of all students have been bullied (4) – clearly there is need for this legislation to
address the needs of all students who feel threatened at school, not just one group.
When you examine the Government’s Accepting Schools Act video, introducing Bill 13, (5) and the video of Laurel Broten, Minister of Education, being interview by Xtra (6) it becomes obvious who is driving this legislation. It is not intended to address the needs of the majority, but to indoctrinate everyone on the LGBT issues.
3) 2008. University of Virginia Curry School of Education. Professors Release First Findings of Virginia High School Safety Study.
a. 2007. Frisen, Ann; Jonsson, Anna-Karin; Persson, Camilla. Adolescents’ perception of bullying : who is the victim? Who is t he bully? What can be done to stop bullying? Adolescence, Vol. 42, No. 168. http://njbullying.org/documents/28031059.pdf
b. 2004. Journal of the American Psychiatric Nurses Association. Teasing and Bullying Experiences of Middle School Students.
4) [Centre For Addiction and Mental Health. The Mental Health and Well-Being of Ontario Students. 2010. www.camh.net. p.81]
Whereas Bill 13, the Accepting Schools Act, provides a narrow focus to the bully issue (It only identifies 4 specific issue groups, and uses primarily homosexual and gender issue bullying examples),
And whereas it has not been proven that the special status clubs will lead to a more inclusive environment,
And whereas the legislation will result in curriculum that may be in conflict the values of various faith families,
And whereas the legislation, as stated by the Minister of Education (Laurel Broten) during her speech at second reading, is intended to “change the attitudes of society” rather than addressing the wrongful actions of the bully,
And whereas, churches and traditional principled schools renting publicly funded school facilities will be forced to abide by an
undefined “provincial code of conduct”, which could be in opposition to the ir ‘constitutionally protected’ faith,
And whereas the legislation will interfere with the right of Catholics to create an education environment that is consistent with their faith,
We, the undersigned residents of Ontario, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to amend Bill 13 to address these issues;
- broaden the legislation to uphold the worth of all children who may be bullied for all reasons,
- send the message that the bully’s actions are wrong for any reason, regardless of why they target the victim,
- require tenants renting public school facilities to follow federal and provincial laws, rather than an undefined provincial code of conduct,
- require school boards to respect the federally protected rights of all faith groups, as children from these groups are often bullied by
their peers, the community and the governments,
- remove references to the formation of specific clubs for certain groups (these clubs are not proven to lead to a more equitable environment), and place the emphasis on correcting the wrongful actions of the bullies
- include statements protecting the religious rights of individuals and groups - a segment of society that is often bullied because of its convictions
- ensure accommodation for any child whose parent identifies the curriculum to be in conflict with the values taught at home.