By encouraging respectful attitudes and behaviours among young people, a school can prevent racism, discrimination, harassment, bullying and other kinds of aggression—the result being a safe and caring learning environment for all.
Building a safe, caring and inclusive culture where LGBTQ children, youth, teachers and parents feel welcome starts from the inside. This toolkit includes resources to help adults and youth alike find ways to cultivate a true culture of caring.
Safe Spaces is a joint initiative of the Alberta Teachers’ Association (ATA) and the Society for Safe and Caring Schools & Communities. The Safe Spaces initiative focuses on three critical areas necessary to address discrimination and prejudice in schools: respecting human rights, respecting individuals and taking personal responsibility.
In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.
– Martin Luther King, Jr.
The role of today’s school counsellor is increasingly complex, multifaceted and vital in the creation of healthy, vibrant and resilient schools. Because of their diversity of experiences, school counsellors are in a unique role to become one of the leading change agents and advocates for inclusion, human rights and social justice in their schools. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans-identified and queer (LGBTQ) students or those who are labeled as such are among the most at-risk groups in today’s schools. As such, schools must become welcoming, caring, respectful and safe environments for LGBTQ students and their families. School counsellors can play an important role in helping to create these welcoming environments by helping schools to transition from “risky” to “resilient” spaces that accommodate and respect the needs and concerns of all students regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Students who experience discrimination, whether it is based on race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, gender expression, gender identity or culture, have a legal right to be safe and protected in schools. Transgender students, or those who are labelled as such, are among the most at-risk group in schools.
Two-Spirit people have a long history among Indigenous people across Canada. Before first contact with European colonizers, most Indigenous people recognized the importance of Two-Spirit individuals and the special responsibility bestowed on them by the Creator. At the time they were considered visionaries, healers, medicine people and leaders of their communities. Two-Spirit people were respected as equal and vital members of Indigenous societies. There are individuals documented in history, great women who took wives and carried the bow, and men carrying out duties usually assigned to women.
Canada is a pluralist society with a diversity of religions and spiritual practices. Because schools are microcosms of society, issues related to religious beliefs and practices can emerge there, too. Dealing with these issues is especially challenging when students are ridiculed, harassed or bullied because of their religion.
Understanding the unique and diverse histories and worldviews of First Nations, Métis and Inuit students will help teachers create more responsive and welcoming learning environments.
Throughout Canada’s history, immigrants from around the world have come to Canada seeking religious freedom, economic prosperity and escape from political persecution, civil strife and even war. Regardless of why people are here and whether they are recent newcomers or longtime citizens, their children need to succeed in school. This means providing welcoming, safe, caring and respectful learning environments that build understanding, promote inclusion and empathy and foster respect for everyone.
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