Catholic school in Canada adopts policy punishing students for homophobia

Students of Jean Vanier Catholic Secondary School under the Halton Catholic District School Board district in Ontario, Canada, perform a number during the Bullying Prevention Gala in April 2016.(Facebook/Halton Catholic District School Board)

A Catholic school board in Ontario, Canada has adopted a policy to suspend and expel students found liable for homophobia.

On Tuesday, the Halton Catholic District School Board voted 4-1 to adopt a policy update about student discipline on "homophobia" and "harassment on the basis of sex, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation," according to LifeSiteNews.

Critics argue that the policy contradicts Catholic teaching on homosexuality and gender theory.

Trustee Anthony Danko said at the meeting that reintroducing the policy in the same session breached procedure, according to Tanya Graic Allen, president of the Parents As First Educators (PAFE).

Danko also proposed that a canon lawyer or board lawyer should define "homophobia" in a Catholic context, but his proposal was rejected.

The school board has amended its Code of Conduct six times in the last four years to follow the Ministry of Education's policy on equal and inclusive schools.

Under the new policy, a student can be suspended or expelled for violating the Code of Conduct.

It states that the board "considers homophobia, gender-based violence, and harassment on the basis of sex, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation ... unacceptable."

The same school board previously opposed the formation of gay-straight alliances student clubs, which were aimed at preventing bullying based on sexual orientation, The Star reports.

Catholic lawyer Geoff Cauchi warned that the policy is "dangerous, because it will be used to discipline students and teachers who do nothing more than state the Catholic Church's teaching on subjects such as homosexuality and gender theory, and state their support for it in a civil manner."

He said the policy "is absurd for a system whose very purpose is to lead people to accept the teachings of the Catholic Church."

A clause, he said, should have been included to say that "in no circumstances would a teacher or student be disciplined for stating Catholic teaching on the subject of homosexuality and gender theory, and expressing support for [that teaching] in a civil manner."

A previous policy updated in January last year already addressed inclusiveness and respect for gender expression, gender identity and sexual orientation.

"Let's be clear — there was already a stringent discipline policy in place which included parameters such as sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression," said Allen. "We're talking about a Catholic school board, where they are supposed to promote Catholic faith and morals."