Toronto LGBT students to have 'positive space' rooms
A Lawrence Avenue high school has designated a special room to act as a gathering place for gay and lesbian students, an initiative that may soon come to every school in Toronto.
Students at Lawrence Park Collegiate, near Avenue Road and Lawrence Avenue West, designated the Grade 12 student lounge as a "positive space" where lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered students can go to seek support.
The Toronto District School Board says the initiative will be found in all 106 high school and 480 elementary and middle schools in the city by the end of 2012. Each room will be staffed by a special representative offering support on issues like homophobia, sexism and gender bias.
The idea for the "positive space" came from the Faulkner Report, which was created after 15-year-old Jordan Manners was shot in the chest at C.W. Jefferys Collegiate Institute in 2007. The report highlighted the need to give students a space to go when they feel unsafe.
Ken Jeffers, a spokesperson for Gender Based Violence Prevention said, "We guess everything is positive and safe in schools but we know that's not necessarily the case. Many students suffer in silence."
Students facing gender-based violence "are most likely to turn towards self-harming behaviors aggressive behaviors towards peers or drop out of system entirely."
But some students have taken umbrage with the space and question why a specific group gets a designated space when the entire school is supposed to be special and inclusive.
On Thursday, students plastered every door in the school with posters declaring those rooms as positive spaces.
"Keep the positive space but everybody should have a space in our school," student Connor Whitworth told CTV Toronto on Thursday. "Creating one positive room in one school can become a target. You need positive buildings."
Ryan Hill, another Lawrence Park student, added: "We just want the labels to be dropped, and we are at a place in society where we think we can drop those labels and just to be human."
The school board said it is willing to create a school-wide "positive space," but it means training the entire school's staff. One school in Toronto has already implemented this strategy.
The program won't come at a large additional cost to schools at the trained staff are volunteer teachers.
A Toronto District School Board spokesperson says the room is meant to be a safe and positive space for everyone in the building, but with particular focus on providing support for students dealing the gender identity or sexual orientation issues.
With files from CTV Toronto's Alicia Markson and Naomi Parness