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Youth
 
Gay-straight clubs to be created in BC schools
 
ONLINE:   THURSDAY MARCH 24, 10:43 AM EST (GMT-5).

Brent Power started a gay-straight club in his school.
AFTER a heated debate, British Columbia teachers voted in favour of creating school clubs which promote tolerance between gay and straight students.

The discussion drew both applause and jeers at the B.C. Teachers' Federation convention in Vancouver.

The teachers passed the motion 10 days after a 14-year-old boy committed suicide after his classmates taunted and bullied him because they thought he was gay.

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"I really think there's nothing here to fear," said John Simpson, a high school principal in Coquitlam, B.C.

"What we're talking about is making sure their environment is respectful and tolerant.  I don't know how anybody could not be supporting that."

Opponents of the gay-straight clubs argued they could cause divisions between students.  They say anti-bullying policies should be developed to apply to all students.

One speaker said the union blurs the line between dignity and respect for every student and endorses sexual behaviour that might be high risk.

Other teachers say the resolution means nothing if students themselves don't get involved.

Gay-straight alliance clubs are slowly forming in high schools across Canada.

Grade 12 student Brent Power was harassed, teased and bullied in his school.

So he helped organize what is currently the only gay-straight alliance in a B.C. school.  He says it helps gay students feel less isolated, and less ostracized.

"We all come together, chat, talk, learn about one another and build alliances," Power said.

Other gay-straight alliance clubs in Manitoba, Ontario, and Nova Scotia set up Web sites and fought to get more gay books in libraries.

Members aren't asked to reveal their sexual orientation, but many straight students often join because they're disgusted with the homophobia around them.

Copyright Canadian Broadcasting Corporation © 2000.  Reprinted with permission.