School board meeting in Whitby draws big crowds on both sides of Trans rights issue

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Published March 22, 2023 at 11:02 am

It was a full house inside and a colourful scene outside the Durham District School Board (DDSB) offices on Taunton Road in Whitby Monday as LGBTQ supporters rallied in support of the board and its inclusive policy towards gay and trans students.

Trans students in particular have been feeling the heat from the other side of the debate and there were parents outside the building protesting recent school board policies, such as Trans rights, drag queen story time and anti-bullying.

The majority of those in attendance Monday were in support of the school board but there were several protesters outside carrying signs declaring “Stop Wynn,” in reference to former Premier Kathleen Wynn, who last held office five years ago.

Inside the minority group had plenty to say, with one parent asking trustees why the school board is so “focused” on the differences between students instead of promoting a blanket statement that “no one should be bullied.”

“Why not teach that instead,” she asked.

The response from Mohamed Hamid, the board’s Superintendent of Equitable Education, was that the policy was created to “acknowledge and value” the diversity of each student.

“At the core of all decision-making we must recognize that human dignity is essential,” he said. “Simply teaching human kindness is not enough.”

Barry Bedford, a long-time elementary school principal, an executive with PFLAG Durham and a gay parent, took the podium to thank the trustees for all they have done for the gay community. “It truly does save lives,” he said.

The board was clearly aware there would be a strong anti-Trans presence at the meeting – particularly after censuring Oshawa Trustee Linda Stone recently for homophobic comments – and issued a statement on Friday about the “recent and concerning” rise of homophobic and transphobic actions in the community.

“The DDSB reiterates its commitment that discriminatory or harassing actions contrary to the Ontario Human Rights Code and DDSB policies/procedures will not be permitted,” the post declared. “We are committed to upholding and promoting Indigenous rights and human rights. Every member of our community has the right to feel safe, welcomed, respected and included in all DDSB learning and working environments.”

Social media comment was predominately supportive on the Trans and Gay rights issue, though the anti-Trans side had lots to say prior to Monday’s meeting.

Several responded a PFLAG Durham post prmoting the event with some choice words, such as “There is absolutely no such thing as Trans kids, stop this grooming. You are disgusting”  (Tormund@UnacceptableTor) and “The P and the L are silent in your name I assume?” (Evo@EV0140), and this slightly off-topic rant:

At the actual event, supporters of Trans rights and inclusive policies in public schools had the biggest community support.
As Oshawa resident Christie McLardie put it, the rally was a “showing of love” at the school board headquarters. “We were able to block out the hate (at least for tonight). Rise up allies! We need to be louder!”

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