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Catherine McCullough says the Sudbury District Catholic School Board has policies that are supposed to protect and help individual students who are bullied. (Sudbury District Catholic School Board )

Ontario legislation aimed at ensuring gay students feel safe in schools won’t affect how Sudbury’s Catholic school board deals with incidents of bullying, the education director says.

Catherine McCullough says the Sudbury Catholic District School Board has policies promoting inclusive education, but their purpose is to help schools protect individuals rather than specific groups.

"If kids come forward when they need some kind of support, whatever support they may need, again through guidance counsellors and through our school chaplains, with the school principal, we put in place whatever support students need," McCullough said.

Catholic school boards in Ontario have resisted Bill 13 because of concerns the anti-bullying legislation may conflict with Catholic teachings. The bill would require boards to support the creation of groups, including gay-straight alliances, that want to promote understanding of students of all sexual orientations.

Sudbury Catholic schools do not have gay-straight clubs, says McCullough, who recently returned from Toronto, where she joined other education officials to learn about Bill 13. The legislation is about ensuring a positive school climate, she says, and it provides clearer definitions of bullying and of expectations for how schools should deal with it.

"This isn't really about necessarily a gay-straight alliance," she said. "This is about supporting all kids."

Public schools in Sudbury already have gay-straight alliances, although not all use that name, says Lesleigh Dye, a superintendent with Rainbow District School Board.

"What's important to us is what the actions are that that group of students, and those student leaders, take in the school."