The new chair of Toronto's Catholic District School Board mentioned the board's "mental health strategy" Wednesday in response to a question about whether gay-straight alliance groups should be allowed in schools.
Angela Kennedy, a 15-year trustee who was named chair Monday after running unopposed, made the comments in an interview with Matt Galloway on CBC radio's Metro Morning. She didn't use the words "gay-straight alliance" in her response.
Here's how the section of the interview unfolded:
Galloway: "You have said in past that you have opposed gay-straight alliances. Do you think they belong in Catholic schools?"
Kennedy: "I think that we have supportive programs for students and I think students need to have these supportive clubs."
Galloway: "Does that include a gay-straight alliance?"
Kennedy: "We have different clubs in all of our schools and our secondary school students benefit from them. We have a mental health strategy."
Galloway: "I think it's notable listeners would probably be able to figure out that you're not saying 'gay-straight alliance.' Do you think that gay-straight alliances belong in Catholic schools?"
Kennedy: "Matt, we have supportive clubs in our secondary schools. I think our students are benefiting from them. I hear very good things about the clubs that are running in all of our schools."
Kennedy's answers drew criticism from some Metro Morning listeners:
TCDSB teachers trying to instil honesty in their students not helped by Board Chair Kennedy's extensive use of weasel words on @metromorning— @mark_dowling
@metromorning Angela Kennedy: repeats same vague sentence over & over & expects us to pretend it's an "answer." Thinks people are stupid.— @kashicat
An Ontario government anti-bullying bill, passed in 2012, removed the right for all schools in Ontario — including Catholic schools — to disallow students from forming gay-straight alliance groups.
Kennedy was also asked about how the board would implement Ontario's new health and physical education curriculum. The curriculum, which includes some lessons on sex education, has been criticized by Kennedy and opposed by some parents.
Galloway asked if the curriculum should be taught in Catholic schools.
"Oh definitely … There are some very valuable learning that needs to happen around the curriculum," she said.
Earlier this year, Kennedy had said that substantial portions of the curriculum "contradict Catholic teachings." When asked which portions of the curriculum did so, she declined to give specifics.
"I'm going to wait to hear from the parents," she said. "I'm looking forward to the consultations. I'm looking forward to seeing what resources the Institute for Catholic Education is going to provide us so that we can deliver the curriculum with a Catholic lens," she said.
The board is facing a $16-million deficit. Kennedy said she will make an effort to reduce that number without negatively affecting student learning.
"It's about re-prioritizing," she said. "We want to make sure our students have the best learning environment."