Board taking its time on Positive Space signs 0
The school board is reconsidering “positive space” signs in elementary and middle schools following feedback from the public, parents and trustees.
The plaques encourage acceptance of those of all sexual orientations, including gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, two-spirited (an Aboriginal gender term) and others.
That language may be too advanced for some age groups, director of education Larry Hope says.
“There are school communities that weren’t ready for this,” Hope said in an interview.
While all of Trillium Lakelands District School Board’s secondary schools have the plaques, which were introduced last spring, it may be a long time before anything similar pops up in elementary schools.
Hope said the province mandates an inclusive learning environment, which means working on accepting people of different religions, colours, ethnicities, abilities and sexual orientations.
One tactic the board employed was Positive Space plaques, part of an international campaign, but they weren’t universally accepted.
“Generally the concern we have heard is some of the language – lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, two-spirited – may be a bit advanced for young children. That’s a fair statement to make, I think,” Hope said.
“We’ve heard others opposed to this from a lifestyle perspective. Sometimes that’s founded in a religious belief or personal experience. We’ve heard others say they want to see the word ‘heterosexual’ included on the sign.”
Hope said the board had received 15 formal responses about the plaques.
The director is asking principals to discuss the campaign with their parent councils and come back to the school board in January.
At Haliburton Highlands Secondary School, the plaques had been delivered, mounted on the wall, and then taken down.
Catherine Shedden, a spokesperson for the school board, said HHSS would likely be putting the signs back up after principal Dan Marsden had conversations with the school council.
“There has been no push back from students or staff at this time,” Shedden said.
She said Marsden wanted to ensure dialogue prior to their use.
Along with parent concern over the signs, others have strongly embraced them, Hope said.
“We’ve heard parents out there come back and say to us, this is so important for my child to learn about this. We have friends who have same sex relationships, for example, this is so important because we respect and admire our friends and we want our children to grow up accepting people for who they are,” he said.
“We’ve heard other parents say this is so important for my children to learn the right terminology because I hear them use inappropriate terminology.”
Hope discussed these issues with the board of trustees at a meeting Aug. 28 and said the elementary schools should “go slowly” at the trustees’ request.
“We told those principals that they should begin having discussions with their school councils but there’s no expectation that they make a move to putting the signs up,” Hope said.
Alternate language is being considered for elementary school signs and Hope said he’s also considering having signs placed in more senior areas of some schools.
He wouldn’t speak to whether there would ever be board-wide adoption of the Positive Space plaques.
In general, he described area youth as far more accepting of others’ differences than generations before.
“I think there’s a young generation of people because of the exposure of more information and more world views and more diversified societies they seem to go with it a bit better than we do as adults,” he said.