Scarborough-Agincourt school trustee candidates had a meet-and-greet with Ward 20 residents in an open-to-public meeting on Feb. 16, where topics like sex education proved to be controversial.
TDSB candidates held an exclusive meeting where they addressed issues and concerns of the Scarborough-Agincourt community, including Bill 13, the proposed anti-bullying legislation. Ten candidates were at the meeting in Kennedy Public School to discuss the changes they want to make if they are elected on Feb. 27.
Bill 13, if passed, would require Ontaro schools to support student organizations promoting equality and anti-bullying, such as the Gay-Straight Alliance.
While all candidates spoke out in favour of anti-bullying initiatives, the consensus was that sexual education is a controversial topic. The National Post had reported that some Catholic parents feel this bill is threatening to overhaul the fundamental values taught in Catholic school teaching.
Candidate Appoline Gallaza expressed her view in regards to the possible curriculum changes.
“For me, I don’t support this [legislation],” Gallaza said. “As a Christian, for me, we should be able to build a foundation for schools because we’re a Christian community.”
The universities of Winnipeg and Manitoba released a report stating 60 per cent of LGBTQ kids in Canada feel unsafe at school. Candidates were questioned on their thoughts on the proposed changes to the sex education curriculum and what they thought about LGBTQ students feeling unsafe in schools.
“[The bill] is at the provincial level, and once it passes it has to be implemented in school,” said Scott Harrison. “But we can give the parents the option to withdraw their student from a particular program in school.”
Monica Batac, a candidate and an educator, agreed that sexual education has to be approached carefully.
“Do I believe we need to create a curriculum that provides support for all students and make them feel safe? I do,” she said. “But we need to bring about this curriculum in a sensitive and appropriate way.”
Batac said in her conversations during the campaign, she saw that many parents are concerned about the curriculum change that Bill 13 would bring.
“When it was proposed in 2010 at a provincial level, there were parents who removed their kids from our public schools and put them in Catholic schools because they had no idea in terms of this implementation,” she said.
Former trustee of the Scarborough District School Board as well as the Toronto District School Board, candidate Carol McDonald stressed that the anti-bullying process should be implemented for all children concerned school-wide, not strictly for gay bullying.
“When it comes to parental and school responsibility, it’s our responsibility to do some education at home in terms of different types of sexual orientation,” McDonald said. “But also, as a parent, you do have a right to talk to your MPP when it comes to the Bill.”
Candidate Kenny Tsui was also against the legislation.
“Students at this age need more time to learn more about basic education, so I strongly oppose this bill at this time,” Tsui said.
Candidates Sam Sotiropoulos and Sonny Yeung expressed their full support for the legislation.
“We have to understand that bullying exists for people of Asian background,” said Yeung. “There’s a lot of people with Middle Eastern background in this riding as well, so we have to deal with Islamophobia.”
Yeung thinks it’s important to educate kids about bullying because he said while he’s on the Internet talking to citizens about his campaign, he’s received personal attacks about his religion and ethnic background on occasion.
Sotiropoulos supported the claim that educating kids about anti-bullying is important.
“Any type of bullying is unacceptable,” Sotiropoulos said. “Any initiatives put forward in this bill is a step in the right direction.”
Candidates also answered questions about issues such as what they thought of school closures, the Drummond Report and possible options for funding in public education. Lastly, they were asked why they wanted the board trustee position, which would be a part-time one.
Candidates saw eye-to-eye on most issues, and collectively agreed that they would give the position their full-time devotion.
“I believe being a trustee is a calling,” said Sotiropoulos.
Here is a list of all the public schools in Ward 20.
Its a real pathetic shame that so many of these candidates don’t realize that supporting GSAs and other equity and anti-buillying student initiatives at schools has nothing to do with “EDUCATING” a student to become a “homosexual” or queer person. When students are EDUCATED on anti-bullying of ANY kind (this includes discrimination based on sexual orientation, race, disability, perceived class, religion you name it!)this helps increase their ability to be empathetic to others’ lived experiences of discrimination. It also increases character and helps students occupy spaces of leadership in their schools and their larger communities rather than being the instigating negative bystander student who sits by and does nothing as a fellow peer is terrorized in school or person doing the bullying. GSAs, anti-racism student groups and other equity, equality and anti-violence minded groups are a necessary part of a students right to human rights at school. These groups ARE HUMAN RIGHTS & EQUITY EDUCATION! Futhermore to the “smart” candidate who mentioned that students need more “basic education” what the heck is more basic than learning about human rights…about social justice and the like? And to the “Christian” candidate…guess what I’m a Christian too. Big deal. It’s interesting you mention your community is a “Christian community”…have you asked every single person door to door to confirm this assertion? Furthermore what makes you think that Christians can’t be offensive…exclusionary…that they can’t actually add to the problem of students being bullied in schools based on their own issues with their own sexuality (since that’s usually why ignorant folks worry about somemone else’s sexual orientation in the first place!). Thank you to the candidates that support this Bill and don’t want to see another kid commit suicide because of unsupportive homophobic (or any “ism” quite frankly) school or community climates…and to the others who would faster promote math and science curriculum than to promote curriculum that can actually help save lives…you all have certainly inspired me to run in the next election.
TDSB Student Equity Program Advisor