Suspension of 5 QRC students engages LGBTQI community

The video de­pict­ing stu­dents of Queen’s Roy­al Col­lege hav­ing a heat­ed ver­bal stand­off over the sex­u­al ori­en­ta­tion and pref­er­ences of stu­dents has prompt­ed a de­bate about ac­com­mo­da­tion for the LGBTQI com­mu­ni­ty in sec­ondary schools.

Five QRC stu­dents were sus­pend­ed for sev­en days af­ter the video sur­faced on so­cial me­dia, while the stu­dent who filmed and up­loaded the clip may be deemed to have “brought the col­lege in­to dis­re­pute.” As a re­sult, he may be barred from rep­re­sent­ing the school in sport­ing ac­tiv­i­ties, at­tend­ing grad­u­a­tion or be­ing rec­om­mend­ed for Sixth Form.

How­ev­er, the video has cre­at­ed de­bates about bul­ly­ing and ho­mo­pho­bia in sec­ondary schools while oth­ers have called the pun­ish­ment met­ed out to the stu­dent who up­loaded the video harsh.

Po­et and sex­u­al rights ac­tivist Bren­don O’Brien said the video raised a few con­cerns for him.

“The video brings up a cou­ple of re­al­ly poignant con­cerns to me. The first of which be­ing how im­por­tant it is for sec­ondary schools to have and to be safe spaces for LGBTQI teens, es­pe­cial­ly young men, to ex­press and dis­cov­er their sex­u­al­i­ty,” said O’Brien, who ex­plained the school was al­so right to be alarmed by the video and its con­tent.

“A school as pres­ti­gious as Queen’s Roy­al Col­lege should be es­pe­cial­ly con­cerned about the mes­sages and the per­cep­tions of a video like that,” said O’Brien.

"Re­search shows tox­ic ex­pres­sions about gay men or men be­lieved to be gay are a ma­jor con­trib­u­tor to re­duced aca­d­e­m­ic per­for­mance.”

Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor of CAISO: Sex & Gen­der Jus­tice, Col­in Robin­son, al­so said shar­ing the video could be dam­ag­ing to the stu­dents.

He said: “I think we all need to be very care­ful, es­pe­cial­ly as adults, about watch­ing and re-post­ing videos of mi­nors and young peo­ple, es­pe­cial­ly with a spite to do oth­er peo­ple’s chil­dren harm. That would be one of my con­cerns if I were a school ad­min­is­tra­tor, not just my school’s rep­u­ta­tion,” said Robin­son, who al­so said much of the com­men­tary on the video was re­flec­tive of lo­cal so­cial me­dia where vi­o­lent and deroga­to­ry lan­guage is used reg­u­lar­ly.

This, he said, con­tributed the neg­a­tive mind­sets around the coun­try.

Like O’Brien, Robin­son said the video ex­posed a prob­lem many stu­dents face in schools across the coun­try.

“The video il­lus­trates the dai­ly re­al­i­ty of how bul­ly­ing hap­pens in every school,” said Robin­son.

“Most of it is around some kind of gen­der ex­pec­ta­tions. And it shows the en­er­gy that young men, es­pe­cial­ly those who are per­ceived as gay, have to ex­pend to get through the av­er­age school day when they should be play­ing and study­ing."

How­ev­er, Robin­son said there parts of the video that were en­cour­ag­ing.

He said, “It al­so showed for sev­er­al peo­ple who saw it the re­silience of two young men in stand­ing up for them­selves with avail­able tools, from the­o­log­i­cal ar­gu­ment to the pow­er of ob­scen­i­ty. We need in­sti­tu­tions to do that work too.”

He added: “We need lead­ers and schools com­mit­ted to de­vel­op­ing young peo­ple who can talk about dif­fer­ences with­out vi­o­lence (which the QRC boys ad­mirably stopped short of), and we need poli­cies that make schools places where tol­er­ance is a fun­da­men­tal val­ue and re­solv­ing con­flict is a crit­i­cal skill.”

- by Peter Christopher

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