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What is a Gay Straight Alliance (GSA)?

December 5, 2014

I believe that there are some misconceptions about Gay Straight Alliances (GSA) that need to be discussed given Bill 202 and Bill 10. From my research and speaking to experts in the field, I learned that though the word “alliance” is in the name, they are not political groups or groups that promote a gay lifestyle.  The word “alliance” is related to the fact that these groups bring straight and LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer) students together as allies.  I also learned that they are not sex groups or dating clubs but “identity clubs” for students who identify as LGBTQ and their straight friends. To put this in language that Catholics can understand:  they are pastoral care groups for LGBTQ students.  Another misconception is that they meet during school hours.  In actual fact, they meet after school on school property.

Do our LGBTQ students need pastoral care in our Catholic schools?  Absolutely!  I have learned that though 5% of youth are LGBTQ, they make up 25-40% of homeless youth (go to homeless hub). (A reader has informed me that according to Statistics Canada 2.4% of the population identifies as LGBTQ.  There are 40,000 students at ECSD so 1,000 of our students would identify as LGBTQ).  LGBTQ youth are 4 times more likely to commit suicide than their straight peers (go to http://www.thetrevorproject.org/).  I also know from both first-hand experience and hearing the stories of parents with gay children, that homophobia is alive and well in our schools–both Catholic and public.  A 2006 Toronto District School Board Research Report concurs (http://www.tdsb.on.ca/Portals/0/AboutUs/Research/StudentCensusReport-SchoolExperiencesFinal.pdf):

  • Sixty-nine percent (69%) of heterosexual Grade 9-12 students indicated they feel comfortable with the overall school environment all the time or often, compared with 52% of LGBTQ students. There are also 12% more LGBTQ students indicating they rarely or never feel comfortable with school.
  • In terms of relationships with other students and with school adults, 17% more heterosexual students indicated they feel comfortable all the time or often than LGBTQ students.
  • With regard to school safety, 71% of LGBTQ students reported they feel safe at school all the time or often, which is 12% lower than heterosexual students. On the other hand, 10% more LGBTQ students indicated they do not feel safe at school (p. 46)

Some have raised the issue that there are many reasons why students feel discriminated at school and some of these reasons far outweigh being discriminated because of being LGBTQ.  This is in fact true.  The Toronto District School Board 2006 Student Census System Overview  gives the following reasons why students most often are bullied:  (go to  http://www.tdsb.on.ca/Portals/0/aboutus/research/2006studentcensussystemoverview1.pdf)

Reasons for Being Bullied Grade 7-8 Grade 9-12
Body image 38% 27%
Grades or marks 17% 12%
Cultural or racial background 11% 14%
Language 7% 7%
Gender 6% 4%
Religion 5% 5%
Income 5% 5%

That body image and marks are top of the list for being bullied does not surprise me — these were the same top 2 issues listed by the students attending our recent District Wide Student Council meeting.  I believe that our schools need to address these issues through groups and through the curriculum just as we need to address any reasons why students would be bullied.  And our district does try to address the listed reasons for being bullied.  In regards to body image, I was recently visiting a Catholic junior high in our district which offers an onsite after school care program just for girls ages 11-15 led by the YWCA called GirlSpace.  The flyer states the following:

“Come join YWCA Edmonton’s GirlSpace Empowerment and Leadership Program.  Activites and Discussion led by female mentors from your community.  Themes:  Healthy Relationships, physical, mental, and sexual health, body image and media analysis, decision making, budgeting, bullying, your rights, and more!”

So this is an after school care group specifically for girls offered in a Catholic school to help girls become empowered.  It addresses body image and other factors that contribute to their self esteem.

In regards to being bullied on the basis of marks, our district has a whole high school dedicated to high achieving students so that they can be with other like minded students who enjoy studying and learning.  At a recent parent council meeting at this high school, parents shared how much more comfortable their high achieving child was at the school since they no longer had to deal with discrimination and bullying due to being high achievers.

In regards to being discriminated against due to culture and racial background, our district offers a wide array of special programming and groups for our First Nations, Metis and Inuit students (FNMI).  If you go to https://www.ecsd.net/Programs/Overview/AboriginalLearning/Pages/Aboriginal-Learning.aspx you will see the myriad of supports we offer to these students — everything from culturally relevant counselling and support, to connections to elders, to programming that is permeated with the aboriginal culture.  Ben Calf Robe school is a whole school dedicated to supporting the FNMI student. Certainly there are students from other racial backgrounds who would be suffering from discrimination so we need to address their concerns as well–we can always do more.

So as a Catholic school district we offer specific pastoral care and programming to specifically vulnerable students.  We do this because we are followers of Jesus who in Matthew 25 tells us that when we feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, visit the sick and the prisoner, we do all these things to him. He did not suggest that we give drink to the hungry and clothe the sick – he said that we needed to meet each group’s specific needs.  So I believe that we should continue as we have already been doing in providing specific support for specific students in regards to our LGBTQ students.  This in no way goes against what we are already doing for our vulnerable students.

I also have a concern that if we do not have pastoral care groups for our LGBTQ students in our schools, our Catholic students will go to public school groups.  I have learned that this is already the case. I am very concerned about what this says about our district–it shows that our students who need support are not getting it from a Christian institution whose mission it is to support vulnerable people.  I am also concerned that in going outside our schools for support, our students will miss out on learning through our Christian lens the Christian view of the human body and sexuality.

At a recent Alberta Catholic School Trustees meeting I learned of a video called “The Third Way” which features 3 adult gay Catholics describing what it was like for them to grow up Catholic and gay (go to http://www.blackstonefilms.org/films.html). They suffered greatly because they didn’t receive any support from their school, their parents or their parish.  In actual fact, they experienced quite the opposite — homophobia, rejection, and isolation.  The 3 people featured in the film, in the end did find their way back to the church with the help of caring Christian people. Once given support they chose to lead celibate lives as a way to live with their sexual orientation.  Whether you agree or disagree with their final decision of how they chose to live with their sexual orientation, the video is valuable in understanding better the struggles  LGBTQ students have with understanding their sexual identity and being accepted by others for who they are.  It is my view that we need to provide a pastoral response specific to their particular situation just as we provide a pastoral response to our girls, our FNMI students, our special needs students, our English Language Learners and so on.  We are Catholic schools – let’s witness to Jesus’ love for all people and be cognizant of Mother Teresa’s wise words:  “If you judge people, you have no time to love them”.

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30 Comments
  1. Larry Retzlaff permalink

    Wow. Great post…. Thanks

  2. Wonderful column!

  3. Mr. Buracas permalink

    Well done. This is leadership. Time now to convince your colleagues and bring them out of the dark ages. Oh, and be prepared for a battle with your Bishop.

  4. Laurie M permalink

    Your article raises more questions than it answers.

    First, how does your statement that 5% of youth are LGBTQ coincide with Stats Canada that states the homosexual population is around 2.4%?

    Second, does the program GirlSpace rent the space from the school or have a contract with the school such as the Girl Guides may have? I understand the program may be run by teachers, but is the program in the school you mention facilitated by teachers from that specific school? Do they meet during school hours?

    Thirdly, do you have the breakdown of cultural or ethnic bullying in our schools?

    You state, “I also have a concern that if we do not have pastoral care groups for our LGBTQ students in our schools, our Catholic students will go to public school groups.”

    What are the statistics for students leaving the Catholic Schools for public schools solely because the school does not have a GSA club? Anecdotal evidence, as you know, is just that. If this is truly a problem, I would assume this would be tracked.

    Do you propose that the GSA’s in Catholic Schools be” pastoral” in the sense that they share information conforming to the Catholic teaching on sexuality?

    • I got the 5% figure from the Homeless Hub which I footnoted in my blog. Thank you for providing the Stats Canada figure — taking that figure, we have as you mentioned in your latest comment, 960 students in our district that would identify as LGBTQ: our total school population is 40,000 and so 960 is 2.4% of the total population.

      GirlSpace was brought in by the school administration– it is not a rental group. It is led by YWCA personnel not teachers. They meet after school–it is called an after school care program for ages 11-15.

      Our district does not keep statistics on cultural and ethnic bullying. I am going to suggest that we conduct a survey similar to that done in Toronto which I footnote in my blog.

      Our district does not keep statistics on how many LGBTQ students from ECSD go to public schools. I know this is happening though from someone from the LGBTQ community who is connected to the public schools’ GSAs. In order to get this information we would need to ask the students to self report to the administration…not sure if this would happen. We could conduct an anonymous survey though — something for us to think about.

      Yes, GSAs in our schools would conform to Catholic teachings on sexuality just as our sex ed classes conform to this teaching. Our whole curriculum is permeated with our Catholic faith and so would our GSAs. I speak of the Christian (and I also meant Catholic) lens through which we see our mission as Catholic schools. Through our GSAs they would learn that they are made in the image and likeness of God and that their bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. The point of my blog was to say that we need to have specific ministry groups for our Catholic LGBTQ students — they need the same kind of consideration for support as our girls, our smart kids and our aboriginal kids. My point was to say that we don’t need to worry that GSAs are groups to promote a gay lifestyle but are identity groups — groups to help the students understand that they are created by God and so they are good. I think it is so important as Christians and Catholics that we do what Jesus would do and that is to reach out to all our vulnerable students. The LGBTQ community is saying that they need special support groups. Let’s provide them then with the supports they need in our schools based upon our understanding and theology of the human person.

  5. Laurie M permalink

    Sorry… more questions….

    You state that there are 40,000 students in ECSD. You also state that that based on the 2.4% there would be 1000 LGBTQ students (really 960) in the Edmonton Catholic School system. Are you including K-6 in your demographics? Extrapolating 1000 students that include 5 to 12 year olds would be misleading.

    You state that “I am also concerned that in going outside our schools for support, our students will miss out on learning through our Christian lens the Christian view of the human body and sexuality.”

    Did you mean to say “Catholic” instead of “Christian” – since it is specifically Catholic schools that are being targeted and of which you speak publically as a representative of.

    There is, as I am sure you are aware of, a myriad of different Christian faiths that have beliefs quite opposite to Catholic teaching on human sexuality, chastity, and marriage.

    Further, are you suggesting that these groups, which in your words “meet after school hours,” are encouraged to live out their same-sex attraction with the aide of their “allies” in a manner conforming to the wisdom of Catholic teaching (i.e., chastity)?

    I would like to make note of your own words in an article entitled “Why Catholic Parents Send Their Children to Public Schools” in which you mention parents that are “…grateful for the Catholic school that made them feel so welcome and helped their children grow as spiritual beings.”

    I also note that you state that “[o]thers like myself and my husband chose to move one of our 3 children to a public school for social reasons” which definitely indicates that the reasons for Catholic parents sending their children to public schools is as varied as the families themselves.

    I acknowledge that any questioning in a public forum of your assertions is forbidden based on my last set of questions being moderated, however, your article just raises questions and does not address the many issues in a Catholic school.

    • Please do not be sorry for your questions! You ask very good ones and have given me food for thought — especially in regards to surveying our students as the Toronto District Board of Education has done.

      As I mentioned in my earlier comment, using Stats Can figures, 960 students from K-12 would identify as LGBTQ in our schools.

      I meant Catholic and Christian view.

      As I said before our GSAs would conform to Catholic teachings just as all our activities in our schools would conform to Catholic teachings.

      Sorry, I’m not sure what you are saying in regards to public parents sending their children to Catholic schools and vice versa. Could you elaborate? Please feel free to call me on my cell if you would like to chat: 587-879-5612

      • J.Clarke permalink

        Your comments of “Yes, GSAs in our schools would conform to Catholic teachings” is completely false. I would suggest you talk to the bishop and then reblog about it to correct your statement.

      • The Catholic teachings I hope would be shared in our groups for LGBTQ students would be that they are made in the image and likeness of God and that they are loved by their Catholic community. Here is what Pope Francis is asking us to reflect on in preparation for the upcoming synod on the family. You can read the full story at http://ncronline.org/news/vatican/vatican-asks-wide-input-2015-synod-not-based-doctrine:

        “For the second time in two years, the Vatican has asked national bishops’ conferences around the world to seek input from Catholics at “all levels” about how the church should respond to sometimes difficult questions of modern family life, such as divorce and remarriage.
        Issuing a document in preparation for a second worldwide meeting of Catholic bishops on family life next year, the Vatican has also stressed the need for mercy in responding to such difficult situations — even asking the bishops to avoid basing their pastoral care solely on current Catholic doctrine…Tuesday’s document also addresses a question to the bishops about pastoral care for gay people, but calls them “persons with homosexual tendencies.”

        “The pastoral care of persons with homosexual tendencies poses new challenges today, due to the manner in which their rights are proposed in society,” the document states.

        “How can the Christian community give pastoral attention to families with persons with homosexual tendencies?” the document asks. “What are the responses that, in light of cultural sensitivities, are considered to be most appropriate?”

        “While avoiding any unjust discrimination, how can such persons receive pastoral care in these situations in light of the Gospel?” it continues. “How can God’s will be proposed to them in their situation?”

        I am suggesting that we offer pastoral care for our LGBTQ students in our Catholic schools — I don’t think this would be out of sync with Pope Francis.

  6. Laurie M permalink

    Thank you, Patricia, for your response to my questions. Often these types of questions and comments are met with name calling (homophobe, bigot, etc.,), so I really appreciate your response. I can tell that you have a keen interest in the students who attend our Catholic schools
    .
    However, I have a few concerns with some of the points you raise. In particular, that GSA’s

    • will meet after school
    • are a form of “ministry”
    • will encourage and/or discuss Catholic attitudes towards their sexuality

    I am not sure that any of the above would fly with the LGBTQ community and I have not heard of any of the above-mentioned concessions made. These advocates panic at the idea that a GSA could meet at an off-school site – I am sure that holding the group after school would not make them any happier. It is imperative that they be seen within the school day-to-day functioning.

    If you had referred to the GSA as a “ministry” before the radio segment, I believe you would never have been invited on. Any connection to a GSA run with religious overtones is forbidden. And to suggest that a GSA in a Catholic School would conform to Catholic beliefs would be hotly contested as the people driving this agenda completely and totally disagree with the Catholic view of the human person and sexuality. All you need to do is to read the vitriol directed towards the Catholic Faith in the media to see that this is the case.

    In an Edmonton Journal opinion piece entitled “Opinion: Bill 10 is Prentice’s litmus test”, Kristopher Wells states that “[t]oday, there are more than 90 GSAs in our public schools. There are no GSAs in any Catholic school in Alberta.” ( December 5, 2014). The fact that there are no GSAs in Catholic schools is THE problem for him, a big problem.

    The GirlSpace program that you mention is a program run by an outside community agency, after school hours, at the request and discretion of the school administration, and perhaps the parents who fill out the registration form. I am not sure if their activities are integrated into the day-to-day function of the school itself. This would not apply to GSA’s – if there is interest it will become the law that one be instituted. Can you imagine the Law telling every school that if there is interest in GirlSpace they must provide for one?

    I would like to point out that there are a total of 2116 schools in Alberta. http://education.alberta.ca/department/stats/numberofschools.aspx

    So, getting back to Mr. Wells’ statement that there are approximately 90 schools that have GSAs, we need to look at some numbers. There are 1446 Public Schools and 375 Separate Schools for a total of 1821 (the remainder being Francophone, Charter, ECS Private Operator, Private School which total 295) = 2116.

    This would mean only 6.24% of Public Schools (out of 1446) have a GSA. I find that interesting because Mr. Wells and the Media are not going after the Public schools who would have no conflict of interest to declare, thus no need for legislation. This is a target against Catholic Schools, Catholic School Boards, and Catholic parents that may have a conflict of interest.

    I believe that you are being naïve to the events that are driving this agenda. I thank you for the kind offer to call you, which I will seriously think about in the New Year. I wish you a Merry Christmas!

    • Larry Retzlaff permalink

      Maybe these nit picky questions are largely irrelevant.

      • J.Clarke permalink

        Thank you Laurie M. You questions are very much relevant.

      • Dennis permalink

        Larry,
        These questions that Laurie has posed are extremely relevant to this discussion. Patricia has spoken out in favor of a program that is anything other than an attack against our Catholic teaching. It is not the kids who have bought into these clubs that are at fault, they are simply being used as pawns in a bigger agenda. The problem is and has been for some time now, Dr. Kris Wells, and his biased approach to pushing his own agenda on everyone in Alberta. Laurie challenges much of the misinformation that has been given for years now as a means of justifying these groups. I would content that the problem these groups are creating for kids is actually why there are high suicide rates among this group and that the position presented by the Catholic School Board provides a balance and an inclusive rather than divisive position.

      • Larry Retzlaff permalink

        The questions are irrelevant. Human rights trump religion EVERY time. Doesn’t matter what the percentages are, or why someone is gay. Irrelevant

      • Dear Dennis,

        Please read my comments to Laurie above. I respond to your concerns about a “gay agenda” in an earlier reply to her comment. As I said to Laurie, I appreciate you emailing me — we need to have these conversations so we can find the best way to serve our students. What I am hearing is that the call for GSAs in our schools is part of a “gay agenda”. I mentioned this to a gay Catholic recently and he said: “Yes, it is a gay agenda — an agenda to save lives”. Please go to a January 2014 edition of The Lancet to learn about the mental health issues of LGBTQ students: http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(14)60089-1/fulltext?rss=yes

        To learn more about how GSAs save lives go to the International Journal for Child, Youth and Family Studies: http://journals.uvic.ca/index.php/ijcyfs/article/view/12856

    • J.Clarke permalink

      Mrs.Grell.
      Would you vote to allow GSA’s to form in Edmonton Catholic Schools? Simple question just needs a yes or no answer.

      • As I said in my blog, there are many misconceptions of what a GSA is. If you define GSA as a group that meets to “hook up” and “promote the gay lifestyle” then my answer is no. If you define GSA as I do, as a group that is led by a staff member knowledgeable of their faith, who practices their faith, whose purpose it is to support LGBTQ students psychologically, spiritually and socially, then I would vote yes. You need to know that faith based GSAs exist in Christian and Catholic schools. Manitoba and Ontario Catholic schools have them and have been legislated to have them. I have learned that sometimes they start out supporting LGBTQ students and then as the needs evolve, they turn into groups to support different ethnic groups and other students who are feeling oppressed in their school. Here is a resource out of Northern Ontario on how to set up a GSA in one’s school which includes information on how to set up a Faith Based GSA: http://www.accessaidsnetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/Creating-Safe-Spaces-A-Gay-Straight-Alliance-Resource-Guide-for-Northern-Ontario.pdf. If you go to page 10 you will read: “Some faith-based schools have clubs similar to GSAs called Diversity Clubs, Rainbow
        Coalitions, Social Justice Clubs or Respecting Difference Clubs etc. They are similar to
        GSAs in that they meet to discuss issues around gender equity, anti-racism, awareness
        and understanding of disabilities, sexual orientation or gender identity, but may have
        other issues that they focus on. One of the differences between a GSA and a similar
        group is the role of the supervising adult. GSAs are designed to be student-led and
        driven with the assistance of a staff advisor, whereas a faith-based group is usually
        guided by a staff advisor/facilitator who must be an individual who is knowledgeable
        about and committed to the teachings of that faith.” On page 17 you will read the following:

        “In faith-based schools:
         The Principal may be responsible for the selection of an advisor/facilitator to
        monitor and support the group.
         The advisor/facilitator will likely be an individual who is knowledgeable about and
        committed to the teachings of that faith.
         The Principal may oversee the purpose and objectives of the group.
         There may be some topics that will be restricted in the group such as: issues of
        gender identity.
         Activism, protest or advocacy of anything that is not in accord with the faith of
        the school is not likely to be encouraged.
         Students involved in a GSA group in a faith-based school may be asked to agree
        to strict privacy guidelines including restrictions of all personal electronic devices
        during meetings and posting on social media sites.

        On page 24 they even offer suggested prayers that can be said to open and close meetings. I would suggest that we would use Catholic prayers to open and close meetings if these groups are meeting in Catholic schools–the same prayers we would use to begin or end any meeting in a Catholic school.

    • In answer to your question about when the group would meet, please go to the Alberta Teacher’s Association website for information about Faith Based GSAs: http://www.teachers.ab.ca/SiteCollectionDocuments/ATA/Publications/Human-Rights-Issues/Gay%E2%80%93Straight%20Student%20Alliances%20in%20Alberta%20Schools%20A%20Guide%20for%20Teachers.pdf

      If you go to page 18 you will read that there are different kinds of GSAs that can be formed in a school. The first one is more like a therapy group which meets outside of school hours and is led by an adult therapist. As you go through the 4 types of groups, you see that they vary as to the level of involvement in the life of the school. As a Catholic district, we would set up groups for our LGBTQ students in accordance with our Catholic Christian beliefs. If you read through this document and the one from Northern Ontario at http://www.accessaidsnetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/Creating-Safe-Spaces-A-Gay-Straight-Alliance-Resource-Guide-for-Northern-Ontario.pdf you will see that there are lots of suggestions on how to set up a Faith Based GSA.

      As a Catholic and a Christian I am compelled to care for a group of students who has a 4 times higher suicide rate than heterosexuals. Yes, many of our students suffer from bullying — 38% suffer bullying due to appearance and 17% due to their marks — and they deserve our attention too. I am planning on asking our administration how we can help our students with these issues as well.

      Regarding your comments on the number of public schools that have GSAs, and Mr. Wells’ focus on Catholic schools. Yes, I have heard from a rural public trustee recently who said that they have groups for LGBTQ students in their schools but they call them “diversity clubs” and other such names. So if you are counting just the ones that are called GSAs, you will get a smaller number.

      Laurie, please know that I respect your position and understand your concerns. You are concerned of the slippery slope–if we let in a group for these kids then the next thing you know there will be field trips to the Annual Gay Pride Parade. My concern is that we care for these kids since we are Christians and Catholics and are called to care for vulnerable people. How can we care for them? The Archdiocese of Edmonton is just starting to implement workshops for our Catholic teachers on how to address the concerns of students in their schools who are LGBTQ. They have had 2 such workshops at the Catholic Pastoral Centre this year. This is a step in the right direction. Having a support group for the students after school led by a teacher well versed in their faith and understanding of LGBTQ issues is another way we can help them. We have to be careful that we are making a distinction between the person and the lifestyle. No one is advocating that these groups promote the “gay lifestyle”. These groups are not about that — they are about helping LGBTQ students come to terms with their sexual identity. Being gay is not a sin according to the Catechism of the Catholic church–practicing a gay lifestyle is. Please see the video blog posted by our beloved late Fr. Catfish (Fr. Mike Mireau) regarding making this distinction: http://www.fathercatfish.com/BeingGay.html

      Again, I appreciate your concerns and your excellent research! Let’s keep talking about this — it is the only way we can find the best thing for our students — getting caught in our own silos will do a great disservice to our students. Please know that I am just trying to do as our Pope has suggested recently: ask ourselves how we can offer pastoral care and a place in our church for Catholics who are LGBTQ.

  7. Laurie M permalink

    In Ontario…

    “… Cardinal Thomas Collins of Toronto had warned that it was a “very real” threat to religious freedom. Forcing GSAs on the Catholic schools “overrides the deeply held beliefs” of the Catholic Church and “intrudes on its freedom to act in a way that is in accord with its principles of conscience,” he wrote as president of the Assembly of Catholic Bishops of Ontario.

    In a May 28th letter, he said GSAs are not “in harmony” with the Catholic faith, noting that there is real concern that the clubs promote the views of the homosexual movement.”

    https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/ontario-catholic-school-board-becomes-first-to-announce-it-will-allow-gsas

    • J.Clarke permalink

      Omg lol did you really just define a GSA as a club for Hooking up and Promoting the lifestyle? No one I have ever talked to or media reports have ever said this. Why would you assume people think like this?

    • As I said above Pope Francis is calling us to look at how we can respond in a pastoral way to the concerns of the LGBTQ community. One way is to offer them a faith based group with a teacher solid in their faith to journey with them. If you go to page 18 of the document Gay-Straight Student Alliances in Alberta Schools: A Guide for Teachers, youhttp://www.teachers.ab.ca/SiteCollectionDocuments/ATA/Publications/Human-Rights-Issues/Gay%E2%80%93Straight%20Student%20Alliances%20in%20Alberta%20Schools%20A%20Guide%20for%20Teachers.pdf will read that there are different kinds of GSAs. There are GSAs for counselling and support, GSAs which provide safe spaces, GSAs to raise visibility and awareness, GSAs to effect educational and social change. I think that as a Catholic school district we can respond in many ways to the needs of our LGBTQ students. I think that not only do they need pastoral care groups, but our teachers and administration need in-services on how they can respond in a sensitive manner to their concerns. I just learned this week that some of our teachers already have attended 2 sessions at the Archdiocesan offices on this very subject and more in services are being planned. So please understand that I am not suggesting we only offer groups but a very comprehensive approach on how we can help our LGBTQ students know that they are loved and accepted for who they are by their school community and their faith community. And yes, there are other students who are struggling as well — not only LGBTQ students. We need to care for them too. But I have a hard time with the suggestion that because 38% of students struggle with their physical appearance, and only 2.4% who struggle with their sexual orientation, that we should be focusing more on the needs of the former group than the latter. Jesus described God as the shepherd who would leave 99 sheep to search after the 1 lost one. So our faith calls us to look after all hurting students according to their needs as I remarked earlier in citing Matthew 25.

  8. Please go to the Alberta Teacher’s Association webpage: http://www.teachers.ab.ca/SiteCollectionDocuments/ATA/Publications/Human-Rights-Issues/Gay%E2%80%93Straight%20Student%20Alliances%20in%20Alberta%20Schools%20A%20Guide%20for%20Teachers.pdf

    On page 25 of the Gay-Straight Student Alliances in Alberta Schools: A Guide for Teachers it states the following:

    “In many cases the resistance to establishing a GSA in a faith-based school stems from a series of common misconceptions, which frequently include the belief that GSAs are dating clubs focused on sexual activity and illicit or immoral behaviours”.

  9. Laurie M permalink

    You seem to want to ignore this…

    [December 2] “Two eleven-year-old girls from Ottawa are planning to start a “gay-straight alliance” club at their Catholic elementary school after the Ottawa Catholic School Board recently approved their controversial project on “gay rights” amidst national media coverage.

    Homosexual activist Jeremy Dias, founder of Jer’s Vision, who had lunch with the girls after the story hit the headlines, was instrumental in encouraging them to launch the homosexual club, reports the homosexual news service Xtra.”

    https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/ottawa-11-year-olds-plan-gay-club-at-catholic-elementary-school

    “However, on the weekend [November 30] the girls were photographed lunching with the founder of a homosexual activist organization that exists to promote the normalization of homosexuality among young people in school.

    Jer’s Vision, founded in 2005, seeks to eliminate “homophobia” and “transphobia” in schools and youth communities. In 2011, the organization ran a field trip for high school students that included a drag show. Jer’s Vision partners with pro-abortion groups such as Canadians for Choice and pro-prostitution groups such as Maggie’s Sex Work, as well as many pro-homosexual groups.”

    The organization also offers an LGBTQ curriculum that runs from kindergarten through grade 8.

    https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/ottawa-girls-meet-with-gay-activist-after-catholic-school-board-approved-ga

    You may also want to catch up with all the comments on the Bishops’ letters in The Edmonton Journal and see what advocates of GSAs think of our Catholic faith and how much they have respect for it. You can forget any “ministry.” It is time to take the blinders off.

    • Dear Laurie, I responded to your concerns in a reply to an earlier comment you posted. Again, I appreciate having this conversation because by getting out of our silos we can better hear the concerns of the other and try to find the best approach for our students. God bless you and Merry Christmas!

  10. Laurie M permalink

    “In many cases the resistance to establishing a GSA in a faith-based school stems from a series of common misconceptions, which frequently include the belief that GSAs are dating clubs focused on sexual activity and illicit or immoral behaviours”.

    No one believes this. No one in the Media. No Catholic School Board. No Catholic School. No Catholic parent. No Bishop.

    How this misinformation got placed in an ATA document is curious to say the least. However, I can certainly see how this statement can be used as a diversion, especially by those who are unwilling or are unable to deal with the REAL opposition to GSAs. It gives the perfect excuse to pigeon-hole a group of people.

  11. Patricia,
    Thank you for your response, however, I must emphasize the need for any group that is established in the Catholic school to uphold the principles of Catholic teaching. This means directing these kids towards living chaste lives. “The Third Way” is an excellent video as is the latest video available on the Courage website. These folks explain the struggles of living with same-sex attraction, but coming to a place of peace within the context of Catholic teaching. Please do not try to tell me what bullying is about. I remember being bullied throughout my school years and more recently in a job that had established these kinds of clubs. The institution had little tolerance for Catholic faith. Watch out for the “deceptive do-gooders” as Pope Francis so accurately talked about after the Synod. I know he is also trying to move the church away from the staunch traditionalism, but that is in no way inviting GSA into our schools. I fully agree with our Bishops stepping forward and giving some direction for the Catholic community, I only hope you are able to follow his directive.

    • Eric permalink

      Oh man, these comments provide a real visual of how the catholic school system is nosediving towards irrelevancy. It seems that your vision of a catholic GSA would be a place to teach kids that being gay is fine, but living a gay “lifestyle” (also known as living life as a happy and healthy human being) is a sin and will send you straight to hell. If that’s the case I fear for catholic schools getting GSAs that will end up damaging them even more than they already are. There is no place for catholic schools in modern Canadian society, and I wish you all the best in your failure.

      • Dear Eric: from what I understand, GSAs are identity groups — they help students come to terms with their identity. They do not promote a particular lifestyle or “gay agenda” as some commentators on this blog fear. As you are probably aware, our schools promote chastity for all students regardless of their sexual orientation. Another thing that the Catholic church teaches is the primacy of conscience. The church informs our conscience but does not replace it. If you go to the Catechism of the Catholic Church it states: (1795) “Conscience is man’s most secret core, and his sanctuary. There he is alone with God whose voice echoes in his depths”. We must all inform our conscience but in the end it is between God and the individual, what path we take. For more information on this issue go to http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p3s1c1a6.htm. Thank you for your comments!

  12. Laurie M permalink

    Thank you Eric!

    Thank you for showing Patricia that this issue is not about “bullying”. Your statement (and the stats) demonstrate that.

    However, as is apparent, there is an agenda to force Catholic schools to have GSAs in order to STOP our schools from promoting Catholic teaching on sexuality. They want to destroy the very thing, Patricia, that you are blindly promoting (Catholic ministry to gays). A good example is Eric’s post – any Catholic ministry or teaching will be labelled “intolerance”, “discrimination” or “hate speech.

    And, those studies that you quote only demonstrate increased risk not causation. Lack of a GSA in a school does not cause increased suicides nor necessarily prevent them.

    Please read the following link to The National Post (December 18, 2014) entitled “Depression, conflicts with parents more often factors in teen suicides than bullying, study finds”

    http://news.nationalpost.com/2014/12/18/depression-conflicts-with-parents-more-often-factors-in-teen-suicides-than-bullying-study-finds/

    Although our reasons differ, I agree with what Eric implied, we should not let Catholic schools have GSAs.

    (By the way, Eric, that failure you wish upon us is a long way off as there are line-ups to get into our Catholic Schools.)

    • I know that Pope Francis is also concerned about how we as Christians who follow Jesus welcome members of the LGBTQ community into our church. Go tohttp://www.google.com/search?q=national+catholic+reporter+vatican+asks+wide+input+2015 for the full article. The Vatican is asking what our pastoral response should be. If you watch the video “The Third Way” you will understand how badly LGBTQ are treated in our church and how in need they are of our support. We need to be mindful of What Would Jesus Do?

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