Want to stop LGBT bullying in schools? Put it in the curriculum, says advocate

Change is desperately needed at Newfoundland and Labrador schools, and not just in the hallways, says a representative from a national LGBT advocacy group.

LGBT community in St. John's offering messages of support, solidarity

Students from Indian River High School in Springdale led the way as grand marshals in the St. John's Pride parade in July. (Andrew Sampson/CBC)

The vice-president of a national organization for LGBT rights says she wasn't surprised to hear that death threats were lobbed at students at a Botwood high school after they started a gay-straight alliance group.

Susan Rose says if that kind of behaviour is ever going to end, the change will come from the curriculum.

"You can't just leave it to the students to do this work," Rose, vice-president of Egale Canada, told The St. John's Morning Show.

Susan Rose is the vice-president of Egale Canada. (Submitted by Susan Rose)

Students from Botwood Collegiate told CBC News they've faced escalating harassment since starting the school's Gay-Straight Alliance this school year — beginning with vandalism of the club's posters, and other rainbow posters, and culminating in physical threats.

Officials with the school board said they would do whatever it takes to help, including expelling the students behind the bullying, but Rose said expulsion is not the answer.

"You can't expel kids and expect them to come back with changed beliefs."

Egale partnered with the provincial government to offer LGBT inclusivity workshops with teachers, administrators and guidance counselors in 2012.

Rose said follow-up on those sessions is sorely needed, and that LGBT representation and education needs to be part of the province's school curriculum. 

"How long can government just put out fires? There's no prevention here, no plan for prevention."

Al Hawkins, the province's education minister, is travelling and unavailable to respond.

LGBT community in St. John's showing support

Members of the LGBT community in St. John's are offering their support for Botwood students who say they're being bullied.

"Homophobia is a big issue in Newfoundland as it is, let alone the smaller communities," said Megan McLaughlin, who is from Bishop's Falls. She said the need for a group like the school's Gay-Straight Alliance is enormous.

"We're not going to get anywhere if we don't do this."

Megan McLaughlin is originally from Bishop's Falls. (Andrew Sampson/CBC)

"I had my own real terrible scare with this kind of hatred growing up," said Mark Adams. He advises the Botwood students to "think about what's above the horizon line, think about the world beyond there."

"We got you," adds Kayla Hearn, who owns Hard Case Tees, a LGBTQ T-shirt company, with Adams.

Mark Adams, left, and Kayla Hearn co-own Hard Case Tees. (Sarah Smellie/CBC)

"There's a whole community out there and it's hard when you're not in that community yet, but it's here and you're welcome," said Jason Wells, who is also known as the drag queen Irma Gerd.

"It's so easy to get pushed around by other people and told to be smaller, but to be your true self and show that you have that backbone and you're not going to be put down is so valuable."

Jason Wells is also known as drag queen Irma Gerd. (Andrew Sampson/CBC)

Read more stories from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Andrew Sampson and Newfoundland Morning