According to Canada’s largest study on teachers’ perspectives on LGBTQ inclusive education in the country, only 30 percent of educators say their schools have responded effectively to homophobic, biphobic and transphobic harassment.
The Every Teacher Project on LGBTQ*-inclusive Education in Canada’s K-12 Schools(*lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, Two-Spirit, queer and questioning), which also underlines the importance of leadership and resources, is a national research study that was carried out by the University of Winnipeg in partnership with the Manitoba Teachers’ Society (MTS). The Every Teacher Project, funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, monitors a shift being made by teachers and teachers’ organisations to adopt more accommodating policies and approaches towards LGBTQ-inclusive education in Canadian K-12 (primary and secondary levels) systems.
Over 3,400 teachers across Canada assisted the researchers and project partners in getting the word out about the initial online survey. Canadian teachers’ organisations and unions are working to improve school climate for LGBTQ students; students with LGBTQ parents; heterosexual students who confront homophobic bullying and students who are distressed by homophobic elements of school culture.
From policy to practice
“While the MTS has long held that LGBTQ-inclusive education needs to be a key focus in providing safe and supportive environments for both students and educators, we were pleased to be able to provide our practical support to the Every Teacher Project,” highlighted the MTS President Norm Gould.
The Canadian Teachers’ Federation (CTF) applauds the University of Winnipeg and the MTS for initiating “this important research project which we strongly supported,” said CTF President Heather Smith. “The research findings confirmed our belief that LGBTQ teachers are supported by their teachers’ organisation, regardless of their school context.”
As outlined by the report, all LGBTQ educators in Canada are afforded employment protections through the human rights code, but not all LGBTQ educators feel that they are supported and able to be out at their workplace, either because they experience harassment from colleagues/students or because LGBTQ issues are deemed too sensitive to be addressed in schools.
In many ways, and for a long time, the study shows, teachers’ organisations have often led the way towards LGBTQ inclusion by developing curricular resources, offering professional development, defending members in conflicts with school system officials involving LGBTQ rights, and in dialogue with government.
Of all surveyed teachers, 99% agreed that “it is important for students to have someone to talk to ”about LGBTQ issues, but only 75% of secular school teachers - and 57% of catholic school teachers - feel comfortable being that someone. Only 37% of the educators reported having participated in LGBTQ-inclusive efforts at their school. Teachers identified a lack of training, professional development and coverage in Bachelor of Education programs, as well as a lack of support from school divisions and ministries of education as issues.
The report’s dozens of recommendations include LGBTQ-specific legislation and district policy, mandatory LGBTQ content in curriculum, and the provision of LGBTQ professional development.
Additionally, the CTF is currently exploring how teachers’ organisations can support gender sexuality alliance for teachers and will release a new publication, Sexual and Gender Minorities in Canadian Education and Society - A National Handbook for K-12. The CTF has also produced a series of educational resources to promote and support inclusive schools.