Two education students at the University of Windsor are planning a peaceful protest on March 8 at the Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board in support of students like Brooke, who recently spoke to Xtra about being bullied at school because she is gay.
Laura Garant, Brooke’s cousin, says she has seen firsthand how bullying has affected the 18-year-old St Thomas of Villanova Catholic Secondary School student. Brooke’s story, and the bravery she displayed in standing up and going public, inspired Garant to speak out as an ally, she says.
“After talking to my family and seeing how upset my cousin was, [it’s clear] bullying really has an effect on students,” she says.
Garant, a student in the drama and education program, says she recently took the Xtra
story to class for other students to read. The story generated a class discussion on bullying, with many asking how they can help and show their support.
“Brooke was really the inspiration,” she says. “But after reading her story, other students in class started to share their stories of when they were bullied in high school. There are a lot of people in my program that are part of the LGBT community.”
The class decided to hold a protest, but everyone agreed that it shouldn’t be an attack on any individual teacher or school, Garant says. “I feel that seeing Brooke step up and share her story really allowed people to open up.”
“We decided, as a class, that we don’t want to see any more bullying in schools. This is 2013. There shouldn’t be any bullying and discrimination. It is not a normal part of school. All students should feel safe when they go to school.”
A Facebook page was created, and so far there are more than 100 people who plan to attend the 11:30am protest.
The class is hoping for a large turnout.
“This is a class at the University of Windsor stepping up to show our support as future teachers. We don’t agree with the way the education system is right now, and we hope to see changes by the time we get into the field,” she says.
Brooke, the 18-year-old St Thomas of Villanova Catholic Secondary School in Windsor, who recently spoke to Xtra about being bullied at school because she is gay.
(Andrea Houston (file photo))
Garant’s classmate Sydney Holmes says the message to Ontario’s Catholic boards is firm: stop teaching homophobic doctrine. Also, she says, boards should foster a culture of acceptance for queer youth by creating supports like gay-straight alliances (GSAs).
“In this case, the student felt so victimized she needed to speak out, so I’m sure this happens all the time at other schools and students stay silent,” Holmes says. “We just want students to know we support them. And we want the Catholic board to know they must support the LGBT community.
“I want Brooke to know there are people on her side and we’re listening.”
This week, the pair has been busy making signs and banners to take to the demonstration. They are encouraging people to come with rainbow flags, wear brightly coloured clothes and make signs with positive messages of solidarity.
“We don’t want this to be directed at just Villanova, because bullying happens at every school,” Garant says.