Parents peeved over 'queer' cards

Rachael Friesen holds a copy of the Ally pledge — which says, among other things,

Rachael Friesen holds a copy of the Ally pledge — which says, among other things, "I support lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, Two-Spirit, intersex, queer and questioning individuals, families and communities" — in front of West Park School in Altona, Man., in January 2012. Friesen is among a group parents upset the school has told a Grade 5 teacher to take down the pledge on the grounds it isn't age-appropriate. (LORI PENNER/QMI Agency)

LORI PENNER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:13 PM ET

ALTONA, Man. — A group of parents is demanding two Grade 5 teachers remove cards displayed in their classrooms pledging support for gay and lesbian youth.

“We have to sign hundreds of petitions to allow religious exercises in school,” parent Kim Peters Sawatzky said. “We should treat this situation in the same way, as it seems to be just as controversial.”

The cards declare that Stephanie Fortier and Peter Wohlgemut, teachers at West Park School in Altona, about 120 km south of Winnipeg, have completed training sessions through the Rainbow Resource Centre in Winnipeg.

Last October, the two voluntarily participated in a session, along with 25 other educators from the region, as part of the provincial professional development day.

Participants were given the option to display the card, which includes the word “Ally” on a rainbow, along with the words, “As an Ally, I support lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, Two-Spirit, intersex, queer and questioning individuals, families and communities. As an Ally, I will work towards a more aware, affirming, safe and open work environment in both policy and practice.”

Since the cards were posted, the school has had a steady stream of parents asking they be removed. Many only heard about the card this week.

“I would like to have the choice of how I choose to teach my children about these words and what they mean,” Peters Sawatzky said.

Rachael Friesen, whose son is in Wohlgemut’s class, said she has no issue with the card.

“The kids are hearing some pretty crazy stuff on the playground and we have no control over that. All we can do is damage control, so I’m not understanding why a teacher can’t answer a question without everyone freaking out,” she said.

Ultimately, the school decided to post only the top piece of the training card, the rainbow piece with the word “Ally.”

Still, a group of parents is insisting the cards be removed entirely.

Border Land School Division superintendent Krista Curry said discussions about the card will continue.

“Inclusive education is a divisional priority regardless of gender, race or ethnicity,” she said. “We want everyone to feel accepted, safe and supported in our schools.”

Full text of letter:

As an Ally, I envision a society that embraces, values and celebrates diverse sexual orientations, gender identities and gender expressions.

As an Ally, I support lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, Two-Spirit, intersex, queer and questioning individuals, families and communities.

As an Ally, I work towards a more aware, affirming, safe and open work environment in both policy and practice.

As an Ally, I acknowledge that creating a safe space is an unwavering process that requires productive commitment, re-assessment and dedication.

As an Ally, I am committed to the elimination of homophobia, biphobia, transphobia and heterosexism as well as other forms of oppression.

I participated a Rainbow Resource Centre LGBTT Ally Training session and completed ___ hours of training in the year.


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