LGBTQ policy at Richmond schools could convert heterosexual teens, parents’ group claims

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WATCH: A number of parents in Richmond are upset about a new school board policy aimed at protecting LGBTQ students. They say while its aim is good, it sends the wrong message – Mar 2, 2017

Two young people who are campaigning to protect LGBTQ people from discrimination have found themselves contending with at least one member of a parents’ group who thinks it’s possible to convert straight people into homosexuals.

“It is possible. If it’s a life choice, it is possible,” Colleen Howu, a member of the Parents Care group, told Global News.

Howu was responding to the Richmond School District’s plan to develop a new policy to address LGBTQ discrimination.

Nathan Lee and Kaylyn Munro petitioned the district to consider drafting a new policy. They say they received plenty of support during their time at Richmond’s Steveston-London Secondary School. But they have also faced discrimination.

At a Steveston-London Rainbow Club meeting last year, a substitute teacher suggested conversion therapy — a treatment designed to change a person’s sexual orientation — to the students.

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“I cried almost for an hour I was so upset,” said Lee, a Grade 12 student who is president of the school’s Rainbow Club.

They said the Richmond School District hasn’t gone far enough with amendments to its code of conduct, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

So they petitioned for a special policy that would address sexual orientation and gender identity at schools.

“We need a more preventative measure in order to educate those about what that means and about what homophobia is,” said Munro, a recent Steveston-London grad.

Howu disagrees. She thinks a policy beyond the code of conduct “will segregate students.”

But Munro said they have no interest in separating students and are “simply trying to even out the playing field.”

As for Howu’s claim that the policy could change people’s sexual orientation — Lee said “it doesn’t work that way.”

“I’m gay and if it really worked that way I would choose to be straight then I wouldn’t have so [many] challenges,” he said.

The Parents Care group has amassed 6,000 online signatures voicing concerns about any new policy. They also say they want to be consulted in the process.

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Richmond School Board Chair Debbie Tablotney questions the petition.

“It included names from Hong Kong, the United States and other countries,” she said.

“I don’t blame them,” Lee said of the Parents Care group. “I think it’s maybe just a lack of education or maybe miseducation.”

A group consisting of parents, students and staff will eventually be formed to work on a draft policy.

– With files from Grace Ke

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