STEINBACH – The Hanover School Division is facing a human rights complaint because sexual orientation isn’t talked about in class.
Michelle McHale and Karen Phillips allege one of their children was bullied because the women are a same-sex couple.
The complaint has been filed by the Public Interest Law Centre, alleging that the divisions “sensitive issue” policy is a human rights violation. It excludes sexual orientation and gender identity from being taught in elementary and middle school classrooms.
“That culture of exclusion is just really not acceptable, so this complaint is aimed at trying to address that,” explains attorney Allison Fenske. “We’re also wanting to make sure that classroom materials and learning objectives reflect the diversity of Manitoba individuals and families.”
Concerns arose for McHale when she learned one of her kids was bullied for having two moms. But as she tried to get to the bottom of the issue, she didn’t like what she found.
“It became very clear that there was a real lack of support coming from the school division in terms of addressing and including same-sex families in discussions and supports,” Fenske says. “We think that silence around an entire population in Manitoba leads to exclusion and stigmatization that can really create a breeding ground for the kind of bullying that should not be happening in our schools.”
The complaint details McHale’s efforts to talk with the principal of the school where her child was allegedly bullied. The principal confirmed to her their policy of not including information regarding “same sex relationships, attractions or gender identity.”
Fenske admits they haven’t done a full, extensive study of every school division in the province, but points out one division she believes the HSD can learn from.
“The Winnipeg School Division has a diversity and equity education policy. That’s a great example of how school divisions can adapt and make sure that they’re serving their LGBTQ students or students with those parents and families and making sure that they’re not discriminated against in school.”
Around noon on Monday, the Hanover School Division Board Chair Ron Falk issued this statement:
“Hanover School Division has not yet received an official notice of the Human Rights Complaint filed on behalf of Ms. McHale. Until we have had opportunity to review contents of the complaint, no further statement will be issued.”