The Halton District School Board enjoyed a record turnout at its recent Inside and Out conference.
March 27, 2012
To view pictures set to sounds of the conference, click here
The goal of the annual all-day conference, held February 24 at the New Street Education Centre, was to provide a forum for students and teachers, through various workshops, to discuss how they can make their schools more welcoming and inclusive for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and two spirit individuals, as well as to celebrate diversity in the Halton District School Board. The conference is organized by the Spectrum Team, a group of educators dedicated to shaping school communities into safe and supportive environments for people of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities.
The conference, with the theme being, Making it Better, opened with two guest speakers – El-Farouk Khaki and Troy Jackson. Khaki is a Canadian immigration and refugee lawyer, and the founder of Salaam (http://salaamcanada.org/el-farouk-khaki/), a support group for LGBTQ Muslims. Jackson is a Canadian recording artist (www.enjoytroyjackson.com). Together, they founded the El-Tawhid Juma Circle, which is a gender-equal, GLBTQ-friendly space for Friday prayers.
j Wallace, GSA Equity Facilitator with the Halton District School Board, said he was “thrilled” with the conference, noting 15 high schools and six elementary schools participated.
“We had students hosting, and students leading workshops, and several former students returned to host workshops,” said Wallace. “We are valuing the experiences and knowledge of our students and providing them with opportunities to share their knowledge. Since the conference, I've been getting a steady stream of feedback from staff and students about how the conference created greater opportunities for inclusion, how it's allowed for discussions, and what it meant for staff and students to be there.”
Wallace said he hopes students and staff learn to celebrate every person’s identity and the “gifts and talents they bring to our schools”.
“I hope staff and students came away thinking about how we recognize and celebrate each of us as whole people, how we bring all that we are to all that we do. I hope all participants went away knowing that our schools need to be safe, welcoming and celebratory spaces for all of our identities.”
In addition to keynote speakers, there were workshop sessions and an open session for students. There was a video photobooth set up for students to record their stories. A number of community agencies attended the conference including HOPE, The Positive Space Network of Halton, Halton Regional Police, ROCK, SAVIS, Halton Region Public Health Department staff members, Halton Women's Place, LGBTQ YouthLine, Camp Ten Oaks and Through Our Roots and Another Story Bookstore.