Student says she encountered difficulties in trying to make private school queer-friendly

rundle-pride-thumbCalgary private school Rundle College has begun to recognize queer students within the school after denying a 16-year-old student the right to start a Pride Club this academic year. But other students maintain that the denial is simply part of a pattern of policies hindering support for queer students.

Inara Dattadeen, a Grade 10 student at Rundle, wanted to start up the school's first LGBT club for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students in the fall, only to be told by administration staff such a club would ruin the school's reputation.

"The homophobic and transphobic atmosphere created by many students needs to decrease and/or stop completely," Dattadeen said of her reason for wanting to start the club.

"By increasing the amount of awareness and information about the LGBT community, I believe that the school will become more educated and hopefully will become more queer-positive."

However, Rundle College princpal Wayne Schneider insists that there are support structures in place for queer students and that there wasn't a need for a separate club.

He also denied that anyone within the school's administration had said anything about a Pride Club being detrimental to the school's reputation.

"No one said that or even intimated that. That was never part of a conversation," Schneider said.

"We have a large peer support group in the school. We felt that the umbrella of (sexual orientation) came under an already existing club."

rundle-college-calgary-pride-clubEarlier in the school year, students at Rundle College were denied forming a pride club by school officials. Principal Wayne Schneider feels that the school's existing peer support group was sufficient and a pride club was not needed.

Photo illustration by: Tessa Clayton
Despite turning down the pride club, Schneider says that the school is "very supportive" of diversity, be it queer-related or otherwise.

However, Dattadeen said a LGBT club at Rundle would help her and other students to feel safe, but she said she has made some progress at Rundle College since her pride club was turned down last fall, arranging for Calgary Outlink, a health and support group for Calgary's queer community, to do a presentation at the school.

Administration also allowed "a day of silence" to commemorate LGBT issues this year at the school.

"Their change in attitude this year has created a more positive outlook on this situation and I feel better now that there has been more effective communication and activity between myself, the school counsellor, and the admin," Dattadeen said.

"I don't expect Rundle to change overnight, but over time I hope to educate the school on diversity (specifically sexual diversity) to create a safe space for every student."

Schneider, when asked if Rundle College is a safe place for queer students, said that "we have a very safe and secure building" and added that the building is "psychologically safe."

He also said that he's "not naive to the fact that gays and lesbians" are confronted with issues in society and that it is a much bigger issue than Rundle College, but does feel the school has a responsibility in handling issues, particularly in cases of bullying.

Dattadeen is not the only student who says she has been discriminated against at Rundle College because of her sexual orientation.

D.S., formerly known as G.S., left Rundle in 2011 after being told the school wouldn't recognize her transition from male to female.

She said she was not allowed to wear the school's female uniform, and the school refused to go through her records and change her name and gender.

"The best way to describe why I left Rundle would be because they wouldn't allow me to be me," D.S. said.

D.S. has since transferred to Central Memorial High School, where she said administrators are more supportive, allowing her to register under her preferred name, wear what she wants and is recognized as being female.

While Schneider said that he is forbidden from talking about students specifically, he denied that requests like D.S.'s had ever come his way.

University of Victoria student Sean Sutherland, who graduated from Rundle in 2011 said he is more relaxed in his new school environment after attending a school where he felt he had no support after announcing he was gay.

"The school let me down when it came to supporting my sexuality," Sutherland said. "The topic was never once brought up in any school-related occasions and often felt like it didn't realistically exist in the environment.

"Even when it comes to topics such as bullying, the school refused to acknowledge that it was a major problem for LGBT students. It was a very heterocentric environment that was borderline homophobic."

Sutherland said the majority of his classmates treated him as a "pariah."

"When I first came out I was very alone so when I got bullied I dealt with it by following some self-destructive behaviours. But as time went on I made some trustworthy friends that I could lean on when I got bullied.

"Only on one occasion did a teacher stop an individual from calling me or someone else a 'fag.'"

Sutherland said his biggest regret was that, unlike Dattadeen, he did not try to start an LGBT club before he graduated.

Disclosure: Calgary Journal editor-in-chief Trevor Presiloski also contributed to this piece. Calgary Journal reporter Hannah Cawsey is a former student of Rundle College.

Editor's note: A source's name was removed from this article due to the source receiving ongoing hate messages

Somewhat Untrue
The article is somewhat true but at the same time I am a student there and in my LA or social classes we occasionally touch upon this issue and have great debates about it, with most people against homophobes... and I was not forbidden from writing an essay upon the issue of homophobia so it clearly isn't this bad. They could have advertised the day of silence more and brought more awareness o the issue, but whenever we have bullying talks there is always some about not judging based on sexuality.
I am also a student at rundle and I do love the school. I feel the article was untrue and rundle is a very supportive environment and I feel very supported
this is a lie. rundle is cool.
Friendly Friend
Angry Parents, must say!
First off, great article.

I read it long before the flow of comments (assuming from angry parents, let's be real now) but I wanted to share not my opinion about Rundle school but about the story itself.
I feel this was a great testimony of those who felt that an institution failed them. However, others see it as an attempt to shine a 'bad light' on the school entirety. I am sure that happens with most private institutions when they receive so-called "bad press."
They cry it makes them look bad as a whole, when in reality, all it does is shine a public light on a private matter. It is sad when journalists get attacked for sharing a story about those who were in a situation (how dare you say they weren't) and needed an outlet to share. Could there of been different words chosen? Sure. But whose story is this to tell, then, really?
So, kudos for shining a public light on a private institution's matter. We need more of it, whether it ruffles a few hard-hearted feathers.

"Really in respect to schools in Calgary, these small private schools are probably the most "psychologically safe" places."

I'd just like to respond to this comment. This is absolutely untrue. It has been my experience that due to the close-knit nature of private schools - where everyone knows everyone else's business and teachers and students interact on a more frequent basis - psychologically unsafe conditions, although different from those in public schools, very much do exist. In fact, those conditions can be even more insidious because the school community is so small. And here's one thing you don't know about private schools. They can employ whoever they want and there is no independent disciplinary board like the Alberta Teacher's Association to monitor behaviour and objective intervention. So, before you hold Rundle College up as some paragon of safety, you should do your homework. But anyways... this isn't really about the LGBT issue and is another discussion entirely.

I disagree...
I go to Rundle and I have to say I disagree with this article. I know some of these people personally and the people that they say bullied them and its not like they were being bullied only because of their sexual preference. I know other LGBT kids that go to Rundle and they don't get bullied at all because no one actually cares who you like at Rundle. If you make a point of flaunting it, or if you make situations awkward and uncomfortable then you might be drawing attention to yourself but it would be the same with straight kids too. If a girl was hanging out with a group of guys and started talking about all the guys she thinks are good looking, it would be the same. No one is actually being targeted by students just because of their sexuality. Honestly I think Rundle is a really good school for LGBT kids to go to, everyones accepted and everyone has friends no matter who they like. I haven't seen anything homophobic ever going on and I think this article isnt getting the story right
U Mad?
Good day, Haters.
For all you lovely people who refuse to give well written stories like this one a chance, journalism is all about presenting a side of a story so that people may become aware of what's happening, like it or not. People at Rundle may believe that their school is this perfect place where nothing bad happens, but obviously from the testimonies in the story, there looks to be a problem. Stop being arrogant in other words. This article is very informative and offers some insight as seen from students there. Are you gonna call them liars? No. They've experienced these situations first-hand, and just because you don't want to believe it, doesn't mean it's not true. Sometimes the truth hurts. But the difference is, she's writing a great article in a published journal while you guys are hiding in the comment section bashing on it. Sounds like you guys' life is SUPER fulfilling. Anyways, great article. Hope everyone can learn something from it.
just a thought
Loved the article.

Shouldn't this respect go both ways? Yes, society should accept people with different sexual orientations, but why can't homosexual people accept the fact that there will always be people that won't accept them? If these people's comments hurt you that much it's because you're letting them get to you. It's because these people apparently matter to you so much that you're willing to put time into thinking about things they say. You don't need the entire school to accept you to feel safe, if you have one that you know you can count on at anytime it's already enough.

Also, can we just say that sometimes people are picked on for other things too, not just sexual orientation? Colour of skin, parents' profession and what car they drive? Also, just because I'm not friends with someone that homosexual doesn't mean I'm a homophobe. Maybe they're disliked because of their personality, not because they're gay.

I praise this article, great job!

Are you kidding? The "homophobia" at Rundle is more pronounced than other schools? If you've ever seen Diamond's facebook you would see that the new people she goes to school with openly attack her on statuses and pictures she posts. Not trying to drag Diamond into this, but she's a pretty damn good example of how hateful some other schools are. This is why I'm so offended by this article. Rundle is not a borderline homophobic place. If kids like Sean were placed into other schools they would quickly realize just how protected and safe Rundle is for them. Really in respect to schools in Calgary, these small private schools are probably the most "psychologically safe" places. And giving Rundle a homophobic label is just wrong and sends the wrong message to people about our community as a whole.
I believe this article is very untrue, and only sheds light on the negative aspects this school has. Every school has their own problems, and as a student at Rundle I believe that this is not one of the problems. Why would Rundle support the Day Of Silence if they did not agree with its meaning? I hope that no one negatively looks at Rundle from this article, because it does not show the opinions of other LGBT and their positive experiences.

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