Some students at Nanaimo Christian School are questioning a decision not to allow a new school group to be called the Queer-Straight Alliance Club.
Instead, the club, which meets once a week at lunch time, is being called the Space for Belonging Club.
School superintendent Mike Suderman said in a statement that the name was chosen over Queer-Straight Alliance “in order to avoid exclusive or polarizing language.”
He said the club “welcomes students of all gender and sexual identities.”
But Maeci Parsonage, who is 15 and in Grade 10, said the name Queer-Straight Alliance “is more accurate for the direction we wanted our club to have.”
“We also do want it to be welcoming for everyone.”
Students haven’t given up on having their preferred club name, Maeci said. “We’re going to keep trying.”
Juanita Parsonage, Maeci’s mother, said the students involved with the club want to raise awareness, and feel the school is not being accepting of kids “who identify with a different gender than they’re born with, or they identify with a different sexual orientation.”
She said she admires Maeci and others for speaking out to the school community, which includes 713 students in kindergarten through Grade 11.
Students have also expressed concern that the school doesn’t allow 2SLGBTQ+ imagery, such as pride flags, which meant they weren’t allowed to have pride flags on posters about the club, said Anna Hill, a 17-year-old in Grade 12 at the school.
In his statement, Suderman said students can express themselves in what they wear and how they decorate their lockers.
“It’s happening in all schools, including at Nanaimo Christian School. We value the God-created diversity in every student and support students in their expression of that diversity.”
The school’s position is not homophobic, he said.
“We don’t see anything homophobic about an inclusive group with an inclusive name for students of all gender and sexual identities. Our school’s inclusive practices go far beyond the names we choose for clubs. We take seriously our duty of care for all students.”
The statement said the school stands against bullying and harassment on any grounds — including race, religion, gender, sexual orientation or gender identity.
Suderman noted that the school has gender-neutral washrooms, a gender-neutral dress code and student groupings that aren’t boy/girl in gym class or any other activity.