MGEU member brings her story of bullying, discrimination to light
MGEU member, Michelle McHale, recently brought concerns of bullying and homophobia in schools to the Hanover School Division board of trustees. Unfortunately, she has received hurtful and threatening online comments in response. Photo:Adeleine Loewen
Apr 18, 2016
On Wednesday, April 13, people around the world celebrated the International Day of Pink against bullying, discrimination, homophobia, transphobia, and transmisogyny.
The anti-bullying event promotes tolerance, inclusiveness and diversity in schools, workplaces and communities. Making this Day of Pink particularly important for MGEU members are the recent struggles of MGEU Local 420 Technical / Professional President, Michelle McHale, who recently brought concerns of bullying and homophobia in schools to the Hanover School Division board of trustees.
After her 12 year-old child was bullied at a Hanover school for living in a household with two moms, McHale approached school administrators with her concern. She asked them to have a discussion with students about diversity, including same-sex couples, but was told teachers couldn’t talk about homosexuality in the classroom.
Two weeks ago she brought the issue to the school board, asking the division to make changes and introduce an equity and diversity policy, similar to ones in place at some Winnipeg schools. The trustees said they’d discuss her concerns at next month’s board meeting.
Since then, MGEU members, Manitoba labour leaders and members of the community have showed their support by posting comments online and sending McHale messages of encouragement, while celebrating the International Day of Pink in workplaces and schools around the province.
Unfortunately, over the past week, she has also received some hurtful, and even threatening, comments on social media and on websites, proving that the fight against bullying, discrimination, and homophobia is far from over.
"I knew there would be backlash. I am perhaps surprised how impassioned people got, and so soon," said McHale in an interview with the CBC.
Overall, however, she feels the response has been
supportive, with people coming to her from the Steinbach area, within her union
and across the country with their support and their own stories of struggle.
"They feel hopeful that the school environments can be
changed and that we will have safer spaces for kids."