Trans teacher launches human rights complaint against B.C. school district | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

Would you like to subscribe to our newsletter?

Vernon News

Trans teacher launches human rights complaint against B.C. school district

Image Credit: ADOBE STOCK

A gay transgender male teacher that experienced more than 20 incidents of homophobic and transphobic harassment while teaching in the Lower Mainland has launched a Human Rights Tribunal case against the school district alleging it did little to stop the harassment.

During his time as an on-call teacher for the New Westminster school district, Jude Starr faced a tirade of homophobic and transphobic insults from the students he taught.

According to a July 6 B.C. Human Rights Tribunal decision, Starr was the only openly transgender teacher in the two schools where he taught in 2018 and 2019.

During his 18 months of teaching, Starr had a male student aggressively blow a kiss at him, had a student make an inappropriate reference to his genitalia in class, and was called "Miss Starr" by a student, along with being the butt of many jokes.

One student repetitively called him "Miss Starr" and others repeatedly referred to him as "sister."

On one occasion the teacher found the violent lyrics to the Blueface song "Bleed it" written on his whiteboard. The song's words contained threats of violence and death, and Starr saw this as an intentional threat to his safety.

Starr became so worried he was scared a student may try to run him down in their car while he was cycling to work.

On another occasion, a student left a document on their desk that depicted sexualized violence. When Starr reported this, the principal replied, "it's a fantasy and students can have fantasies."

Starr then claimed the principal told him to "think carefully" before officially reporting it, as the student was a prized football player and the football coach's wife was a school board trustee.

They felt the document contained explicit messages about sexual violence so he did report it, but felt pressure not to.

At one point a student threw a cucumber at the teacher before running away and another time they were hit with a tennis ball.

Starr reported a student for yelling "nice tits" at another student and the principal told him, "a safe school is not the same as a harassment-free school."

The decision does not name the two schools where Starr taught on an on-call basis.

According to the decision, Starr reported the students' inappropriate language they used around him which had "inappropriate sexual content, racist language, homophobia, and transphobia."

However, Starr said he was not aware of any action the school district took to address this behaviour.

Starr ended up reporting 20 or more incidents to the school's principal.

READ MORE: Okanagan optometry violated Human Rights Code by firing wife of ex-employee, tribunal rules

In 2019, after a little over a year and a half of teaching, Starr took medical leave and has not returned.

"Overall, Mr. Starr alleges the School District as an employer persistently failed to provide a workplace that was free from discrimination, or to address his concerns about his safety," the Tribunal said. 

"These allegations range from the School District taking no action when incidents were reported to it by Mr. Starr, to responding ineffectively and inappropriately to them. In addition, he alleges the School District refused to adjust a full-time contract work offer to part-time, despite him seeking part-time work as an accommodation for a mental health disability that was negatively impacted by homophobia and transphobia in the workplace."

The decision said after he went on leave Starr filed a WorkSafeBC claim, and although it was originally rejected following an appeal it was successful.

READ MORE: Kelowna store owners lose 1st round in human rights case over emotional support dog

WorkSafe concluded that the students’ behaviour of personal insults related to Starr’s gender identity, along with their sexually explicit conduct, homophobic comments and gestures would be stressful and leave Starr feeling threatened and unsafe.

"These significant stressors were found to be the predominant cause of Mr. Starr’s mental conditions," WorkSafe ruled.

In the decision, the school district argued that Starr had left it too late to have his Human Rights Tribunal case looked at as it was passed the one-year cut-off time.

However, the Tribunal ruled that allowing Starr's case to continue was in the public's interest and permitted the late filing.

"Mr. Starr submits his case is novel as he is an openly queer and trans teacher sitting at the intersection of numerous groups that have been consistently identified by the courts and the Tribunal as being particularly vulnerable," the Tribunal ruled.

The Tribunal added that Starr's case is unique as it involves alleged student discrimination of a teacher.

Ultimately, the Tribunal allows Starr's case to continue through the Human Rights Tribunal process.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Ben Bulmer or call (250) 309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

We welcome your comments and opinions on our stories but play nice. We won't censor or delete comments unless they contain off-topic statements or links, unnecessary vulgarity, false facts, spam or obviously fake profiles. If you have any concerns about what you see in comments, email the editor in the link above. 

News from © iNFOnews, 2022

  • Popular vernon News
View Site in: Desktop | Mobile