Russell – More than 50 students from seven high schools gathered recently in Russell to discuss ways to make schools safer and more inclusive for the LGBTQ+ community.
The 3rd annual Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA) Empowerment Day was held Thursday, January 12, 2017 at Russell High School. The goal was to bring students together to discuss Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual, Transgender, Two-Spirit and Queer (LGBTQ+) issues, and to determine ways to make schools more welcoming and inclusive for all students. The event attracted participants from GSA clubs at Seaway District High School, Cornwall Collegiate and Vocational School, St. Lawrence Secondary School, Rideau District High School, Rockland District High School, Smiths Falls and District Collegiate Institute and Russell High School.
“Participants and supporters had the opportunity to voice some of their questions and concerns, to find out that they were not alone, that other schools have similar problems, and to learn how they handle them,” said Elminowski. “It was a positive day for the UCDSB family. It is important to us to ensure everyone is treated respectfully and equally within our school community.”
Key points of discussion included ways to offer “safe spaces” for the LGBTQ+ community within schools through such avenues as gender-neutral washrooms and change areas, how to address homophobia, transphobia, and bullying, and ensuring our curriculum is inclusive.
The keynote speaker at the event was Calvin Neufeld, from the Perth area. Neufeld gave a presentation called “Why We Rock” reflecting on how to celebrate, build on and find strength in the differences defining the LGBTQ+ community. He later gave a separate presentation for staff at the school.