Education News Fall2015/Winter 2016 - Page 19

FYREFLY IN SCHOOLS IN FACULTY OF EDUCATION

identify as LGBTQ , feel unsafe at school .”
Photo ( L-R ): Suzy Yim and Kyla Christiansen prepared Youtube videos for ECS 100 to discuss Gender and Sexual Diversity in School ( see https :// youtu . be / fFxEswxx-TY )
Suzy Yim and Kyla Christiansen are two new faces around the Faculty of Education . They are working as coordinators with fYrefly Saskatchewan , which has two branches : Camp fYrefly and the fYrefly in Schools Program . The Saskatchewan Instructional Development and Research Unit ( SIDRU ), a unit within the Faculty of Education , has been contracted by the provincial government to manage the Saskatchewan chapter of the fYrefly in Schools Program initiative .
This program was developed originally by the University of Alberta to support students who are sexually and gender diverse . The goal of the program , says Christiansen , is “ to change the culture in the classroom towards more inclusion of gender and sexual diversity . We want to empower children and youth ,... we want to create schools and learning environments that are safe , caring and inclusive , and we want to build leadership and strengthen capacity at the senior levels , including the school divisions and the different agencies that make decisions .
The two of us work to bring about change and support advocacy around gender and sexual diversity .”
Yim explains , “ We not only look at the students , but also the teachers who are with the students all year round ; we look at the administration who set the policies ; and we look at the School Boards and at the Ministry .”
Building capacity involves deepening understanding and awareness of the issues around sexual and gender diversity , and that is what the co-ordinators are working towards .
Homophobic and transphobic remarks , such as “ That ’ s so gay ” are the most commonly heard derogatory remarks that occur in a classroom , but they are also the ones least responded to by staff . Yim , whose personal experiences while in high school make her passionate about this program , says , “ Stats show that 70 % of students say that they hear derogatory words or phrases every day . What does this mean for students ? 64 % of youth who fYrefly in Schools program seeks to educate teachers because it is their responsibility to ensure that students feel welcome and safe in the classroom . Yim outlines the consequences to tolerating discrimination and derogatory behaviours towards LGBTQ youth : “ Over 50 % of the youth who identify as LGBTQ say that they have poor mental health . Youth who identify as LGBTQ are more likely to be threatened with violence , to experience verbal and physical harassment , more likely to experience cyber bullying , and are more likely to skip school . They are less likely to complete high school and less likely to apply for postsecondary school . They are less likely to be physically healthy and to engage in physical activities .”
Building on the success of 8 years of Camp fYrefly , Christiansen and Yim , under the direction of Dr . James McNinch , Director of SIDRU , will be engaging in participatory action research as they educate and raise awareness in the education field towards inclusion of gender and sexual diversity in schools . Through this program , McNinch says , “ Hundreds of preservice and in-service teachers have been introduced to gender and sexual diversity and hundreds of high school students have also benefitted .”

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Faculty of Education Education News Fall 2015 / Winter 2016 Page 19