Education Minister Laurel Broten and the minority Liberal government seem intent on disregarding the rights of Catholic education

No to all bullying

  • January 31, 2012

Catholic educators have responded to the controversial anti-bullying initiatives of the Ontario government by politely but firmly indicating they won’t be bullied. Bravo!

The response came from the Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association in a comprehensive document titled “Respecting Difference” that articulates the Catholic perspective on an issue that has become unnecessarily controversial. With input from trustees, bishops, educators and parents, the document exhibits compassion, clarity and resolve as it addresses bullying uniformly, rather than elevating one type of bullying above others.

It should be required reading for all educators.

Sadly, however, rookie Education Minister Laurel Broten and the minority Liberal government seem intent on disregarding the rights of Catholic education as enshrined in section 93 of the Constitution and affirmed in the Education Act. They also seem ready to ignore concerns of Catholic parents to the Accepting Schools Act, proposed legislation that would force Catholic schools to operate student clubs that promote sexual moral values contradictory to Church teaching.

Catholic trustees have now made it clear that Catholic schools will vigourously oppose single-issue clubs, including so-called gay-straight alliances, or any clubs that disrespect Church teaching. That’s how it should be. Catholic schools will also aggressively confront bullying in all its forms and treat all students equally. Again, bravo!

But Broten wants more. She is insisting on clubs specifically to discuss same-sex issues. An inescapable irony of the debate over GSAs is that many people who advocate for tolerance related to lifestyle choices exhibit intolerance about religious freedom. That’s quite sad.

Everyone agrees bullying is a blight. So it should have been straightforward for politicians and Catholic educators to co-operatively attack the problem. Instead, the Accepting Schools Act is emphasizing homophobia in a way that makes the Act read like an advocacy paper for a particular lifestyle rather than a genuine response to bullying.

For that reason, the Act is unacceptable and Catholic educators, to their credit, drafted a faith-based policy to deal directly with bullying in all its forms. Students who are bullied, regardless of the reason, will receive support. These clubs must adhere to Catholic teaching and be led by an adult who “knows and is committed” to Church doctrine.

If the Accepting Schools Act were truly an attack on bullying, Broten would commend the OCSTA for fine work. But if the government is trying to promote a same-sex agenda under the guise of anti-bullying legislation, then a court showdown looms. We hope it doesn’t come to that. Catholic schools have constitutionally guaranteed rights to teach faith beliefs. But beyond those guarantees, they are also entitled to the same tolerance and respect the government is insisting for all students.

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