Thisletter from ETFO President Sam Hammond was sent to Premier Doug Ford with a copy to the leaders of the Ontario political parties, the Minister of Education and publicly-funded Ontario Elementary School Boards to ask that the Ontario government designate the month of June as LGBTQ Awareness Month and require that every school board in Ontario observe it as such.
Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario (ETFO)
Fédération des enseignantes et des enseignants de l'élémentaire de l'Ontario (FEEO)
136 Isabella StToronto, ON M4Y 0B5
May 21, 2020
The Honourable Doug Ford Premier Room 281, Legislative Building Queen’s Park Toronto, ON M7A 1L1
I am writing on behalf of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) and our 83,000 members, to ask that your government designate the month of June as LGBTQ Awareness Month and require that every school board in Ontario observe it as such.
There are several public school boards that are working towards ensuring safer spaces for LGBTQ youth and staff. School community events such as the Day of Pink and the Trans Day of Remembrance, provide important touch points for students to consider important elements of anti-Homophobia, acceptance and celebrating diversity. Trans and LGBTQ policies in certain boards proactively indicate how welcome LGBTQ people are in some municipalities but the creation of an official month would concretely motivate all boards to prioritize inclusive practices.
PRIDE events continue to grow in many new and established school communities. There are now an increasing number of Gay Straight Alliances (GSAs) in elementary schools which represents the efforts that are being made at the local level. These programs point to LGBTQ-positive spaces and environments present in some communities; however, this is not the case for many other communities across the province. This means many people continue to feel isolated.
Many students and school communities continue to deal with the effects of bullying as well as mental health challenges. LGBTQ youth are especially vulnerable to these challenges, they face fourteen times the risk of suicide compared to straight cisgender youth. In Ontario, 47 per cent of trans youth have thought about suicide and 33 per cent have attempted suicide. The risks of suicide decrease considerably, as much as 93%, with strong family support. Schools can and should create a culture of acceptance and inclusion.
The Ministry of Education is uniquely placed to ensure that all school boards become aware of the needs of LGBTQ people. Further, the Ministry could demonstrate leadership by designating the month of June for both celebration of the LGBTQ community and increase awareness of their needs and challenges.
This decision will send a clear message to all school boards and students that reflects how important LGBTQ awareness is throughout our province.
We look forward to hearing from you.
SH:MS:JPCopy: The Honourable Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education Andrea Horwath, Leader, Official Opposition John Fraser, Acting Leader, Ontario Liberal Party Mike Schreiner, Leader, Ontario Green Party Marit Stiles, MPP – Davenport All ETFO Local Presidents All publicly-funded Ontario Elementary School Boards