Proposed Toronto gay-centric school focus of public forum

A public meeting was held Wednesday evening to gauge public interest in a possible gay-centric high school in Toronto.
Fan Wu, 20, thinks the Toronto District School Board should consider creating a gay-centric high school. (CBC)

A public meeting was held Wednesday evening to gauge public interest in a possible gay-centric high school in Toronto.

University student Fan Wu, 20, says the Toronto District School Board could make life easier for some students if they considered his proposal for the new type of alternative high school.

Wu hosted a forum Wednesday at the 519 Church Street Community Centre in the Church-Wellesley village to discuss his idea.

CBC cameras were not allowed inside the meeting, as organizers said it would not allow people to speak freely on the topic.

Wu however did speak with CBC News outside. He said the idea for a gay-centric school sprung out of his own experience.

"I experienced a culture in which I could not speak about my sexuality to the rest of my school," he said. "So I would say that although the bullying is not overt, I would call it a sort of covert bullying."

Wu's idea has already started to spark debate.

Irene Miller, president of the Toronto chapter of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), says separating kids because of their sexual orientation won't help encourage acceptance.

"What you're doing is saying: 'If we take away all the kids who are being bullied, then the bullying stops,'" Miller said. "What we should be doing is take away all the bullies and the bullying will stop. It's the wrong end of the stick."

'Not a segregation project'

Wu maintains this conceptual school is "not a segregation project" but would simply be another alternative school focusing on diversity and acceptance.

"This is not an ostracism project," Wu said. "As with most alternative schools, every student will have a choice to apply to this school, regardless of their academic standing, regardless of their financial background, regardless of their sexuality in particular.

"So we would welcome allies, straight people, lesbian, gay, bi, trans, people of all sorts into this school. There is no ghettoization going on here."

Similar criticism about segregation was also expressed about a controversial Africentric high school program at Winston Churchill Collegiate in Scarborough.

Last week it was revealed that the program had just six students enrolled. However, the city already has an Africentric elementary school which opened in 2009.

Miller maintains that the creation of a gay-centric school isn't working toward the bigger picture.

"It's taking one group of children and singling them out," she said.

"It's a hetero-sexist society and we presume people to be straight. We should change that way of thinking because we know not every one of those children is straight so society at large has to make a pivotal change in order to educate that 10 to 15 per cent of kids in school today [who are] LGBTQ."

The Toronto District School Board already runs the Triangle Program at the Oasis Alternative School, which is a Grade 9 through 12 curriculum taught through an LGBTQ lens.

The board says it would not comment on the proposed new secondary school until it has seen an official proposal.

Wu hopes to put forth a formal proposal if the interest shown at Wednesday's meeting is strong enough.