TORONTO, February 2, 2012 (CCRL) – “Respecting Difference” establishes guidelines for Catholic school boards to follow in implementing anti-bullying strategies that will be both comprehensive and consistent with Catholic teaching on sexual morality. The report was issued January 26 by the Ontario Catholic School Trustees Association (OCSTA) on behalf of the joint Ontario Catholic bishops and OCSTA committee tasked with developing guidelines regarding the establishment and operation of activities or organizations promoting equity and respect for all students in Catholic schools. It follows months of controversy surrounding “Gay-Straight Alliances” in Ontario’s publicly-funded schools.

The report states that “Respecting Difference” groups can be established in Catholic schools provided they are open to all students, consistent with Catholic teaching, led by adults who know and are committed to Catholic teaching, and limit outside speakers to those respectful of Catholic teaching. “Student activities or organizations are not intended as fora for activism, protest or advocacy of anything that is not in accord with the Catholic faith foundation of the school.” The report, available here, places bullying based on sexual orientation in the wider context of the need for a welcoming and accepting school atmosphere for all students.

By opposing all forms of bullying and insisting on the rights of Catholic schools to operate student clubs and organizations in a manner consistent with Church teaching, “Respecting Difference” emphasizes Catholic schools’ commitment to equality for all members of the school community.  It also stresses the importance of conforming to  Catholic teaching, which is what parents expect when they choose a Catholic school for their children. Catholic parents and educators should insist that the Ontario government respect this constitutionally-guaranteed reality.  

Education Minister Laurel Broten rejects Catholic trustees’ policy statement, Register, January 31.
Ontario, Catholic schools face off over gay straight alliances, Ottawa Citizen,
February 2
Catholic schools must adapt anti-bullying initiative, CCRL, December 14.