The Department of Education is putting a new policy into effect which allows anyone in any school to create a gay-straight alliance, without fear of it being blocked or shut down.
Gay-straight alliance (GSA) clubs promote respect for sexual minorities, encourage inclusion and discourage bullying.
Gail Costello, a teacher with Oromocto High School and GSA facilitator, is applauding the change.
“Homophobic bullying is different than any other type of bullying,” says Costello.
"It's still a taboo topic, doesn't matter that we've got human rights and gay marriage. It's still an accepted form of discrimination and people feel the right to discriminate based on that.”
Costello says the changes will support anyone facing opposition in forming a student GSA in the province.
"Now, if a teacher wants to start a GSA, or a student wants to start one and they go to a teacher. The teachers have the policies and the backup and the support,” she says.
“If the teacher goes to the principal and the principal is hesitant because they have to answer to the public and the parents - which can be difficult sometimes - now the principals have backup and the superintendents have backup."
Marie-Claude Blais, Minister of Education, welcomes any resistance to the new policy — that’s what it’s designed for, she says.
“We are in a democracy; everybody is entitled to their opinion. But at the end of the day we are here to give support to children, make sure they are in a safe environment, and that they feel respected for who they are,” she says.
“We're certainly open for any demands to bring forward our policy into action.”
The government, New Brunswick's Pride in Education Group and Egale, a gay rights action group, have also created a training manual for teachers similar to one given to teachers elsewhere in Canada.
“We as a government are promoting inclusive education,” says Blais. “It’s a fully inclusive policy. It's about race. It's about gender equality, identity and also sexual orientation.”
“We have GSAs throughout New Brunswick. They are a positive force in our school. Most of them are for young people, by young people, to recognize not only the differences between themselves, but what unites them.”
The policy takes effect in September.