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Shock over school homophobic harassment, district response

LGBTQ advocacy has gained strength at Thompson Rivers University and the second annual Pride Parade earlier this year is an example of the acceptance of the collective.
Image Credit: SOURCE/Thompson Rivers University Students' Union
May 10, 2013 - 6:04 AM

A Kamloops mother of a bisexual teen says she is upset at how school administrators reacted—or didn't react—to a homophobic assault at South Kamloops secondary school last year.

“I'm shocked, disappointed really," she says, though wishing to remain anonymous. "I thought Kamloops was more open than that.”

She is not the only person to react that way to the level of harassment and assault over sexual orientation teacher Don Wilson says took place at his school. Even more shocking is the alleged way administration dealt with the incident.

“The administration perspective seemed to me to be (that) the victim invited the harassment and intimidation because he was so 'campy.' If he didn't act so gay, there wouldn't be a problem,” Wilson told Infotel News of the assault recorded at the school.

The parent says bullying has been a problem for her kids since elementary school and while she is surprised by some things her kids tell her about what goes on in school, she has not heard of any homophobic-based assaults at Westsyde Secondary.

The mother says she just wants her kids to be happy and healthy and is supportive of their choices; but she is aware not everyone is that open and that homophobic mindset can lead to the type of harassment teachers are concerned about.

She is disappointed any administrator would think a child invited an assault based on their actions or how they dress.

“You should be free to act however you want. If they don't let you... that's not right.”

Wilson, on behalf of the Kamloops Thompson Teachers Association, has asked the school district to put a policy in place to help administration deal with homophobic harassment.

If the district is looking for guidance on how to properly create a pride-friendly environment they only have to look as far as Thompson Rivers University.

The students' union recently elected an advocate for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students to advocate and facilitate on behalf of the group – both at the university and in the community. Nic Zdunich was elected as the TRUSU Pride Collective representative – which was formed earlier this year and will be in its first year of operation starting this September.

Nearly everyone in the LGBTQ collective at TRU has either experienced or witnessed physical violence as a result of sexual orientation at some point in their life, Zdunich says. He is concerned over the reports of school administration thinking a student could invite this type of harassment.

“Everyone should act any way they want. If we tell people how to act, how to dress, (that) can have a more detrimental result.”

The openly-gay leader believes a day will come when needing a policy on homophobic harassment in schools will not be needed, until then he is strongly supportive of the policy School District 73 teachers want put in place.

“If it can help only one person, it's successful.”

To contact a reporter for this story, email or call (250) 819-3723.

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2013
InfoTel News Ltd

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