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.
Winnipeg (19 April 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 members of the Manitoba Government and General Employees' Union (MGEU/NUPGE) are the recent struggles of Michelle McHale, President of the MGEU Local 420 for Technical / Professional workers, who recently brought concerns of bullying and homophobia in schools to the Hanover School Division board of trustees.
MGEU/NUPGE member's first-hand experience with bullying shows the reality of the problem
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 the topic of 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.
Community comes together to support McHale and her family
Since then, MGEU/NUPGE 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.
Schools need to be a safe space for kids
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."
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 360,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE