Approximately 30 student allies and supporters, holding rainbow flags and pink triangles, gathered outside the Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board offices March 8 to send a message that queer students need acceptance.
The protest was in support of youngsters like Brooke, a Grade 12 student at St Thomas of Villanova Catholic Secondary School, who recently spoke to Xtra about being bullied at school because she is gay.
“It was overwhelming,” says Brooke’s mom, Tina Dagenais. “There was a good turnout. There was a lot of positive energy.”
Dagenais, who picked up Brooke from school to take her to the demonstration, says she broke down in tears when she pulled into the parking lot and saw the crowd of supporters forming.
“We were just overjoyed and ecstatic with the support from everyone that was there,” she says. “It was just so awesome.”
Laura Garant, an education student at the University of Windsor and Brooke’s cousin, organized the protest
. She says there were many supportive honks from passing drivers.
Brooke, a Grade 12 student at St Thomas of Villanova Catholic Secondary School, who recently spoke to Xtra about being bullied at school because she is gay.
(Courtesy of Tessa Johnston)
“I think it was a fabulous success, and it was really positive,” she says. “I think Brooke was thrilled to see that many people show up to support her.”
Dagenais says no representatives from the Catholic board or the school attended the event.
Mike Seguin, superintendent of student achievement at the Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board, did not respond to Xtra
’s request for comment.
Missing from the protest was Brooke’s girlfriend, whose parents continue to prevent the couple from seeing one another, Dagenais says. Brooke says her girlfriend’s parents are very unsupportive and homophobic.
“She would have had to sneak out of school, and that would have caused more problems,” Dagenais says.
Approximately 30 student allies and supporters gathered outside the Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board offices March 8.
(Photo courtesy of @allieeeeeeeeee.)
Recently, Dagenais tried to reach out to her daughter’s girlfriend’s parents, in the hope she could help them understand that the two are in love and that their resistance to the relationship is causing a great deal of stress on the young couple.
“I spoke to [Brooke’s girlfriend’s] dad,” she says. “We’re so far apart on this. It’s two very different views. Everyone is entitled to their beliefs; it’s just so unfortunate that some people can’t see another side. There’s no bending. It’s just black and white. There’s no grey or rainbow.”
Meanwhile, at school, Dagenais says, teacher Jolene Coste has backed off and the bullying has stopped.
However, some classmates have made negative comments, both at school and online.
“This was never a personal attack on the school,” she says. “Brooke never said that all the teachers at this school are bullies. It’s one teacher, and she has a right to speak out. Brooke has been doing a good job filtering out the ignorant comments and staying on track.”