|Ellen Picard and her son Gabe|
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Ellen Picard's gay son was bullied viciously throughout elementary and secondary schools. She began a five year fight to change the culture of schools in the her local school district. Her work resulted in sweeping changes in schools across the province of Ontario.
Ellen and Gabe live in a remote blue-collar town in northern Ontario, better known for mining, forestry and its high rates of violent crime. It is the last place that anyone would expect would become a provincial leader for LGBT advocacy.
After much work at the school and Board level, nothing changed for LGBT students her town. Ellen filed complaints with the Ontario Human Rights Commission against the Board in 2004 and again in 2007, and won.
As a result of her work for LGBT students, the school district in her town leads the province in supporting the rights of LGBT students and staff.
Some initiatives in her town's public school system include:
- High school teachers participate in anti-homophobia workshops
- There are lesbian, gay, bi and trans resources at each school
- Every high school has a very active Gay Straight Alliance
- Every high school flies the rainbow Pride flag half a several times per year, often for a week at a time.
- Human rights are discussed at staff meetings
- All schools have dedicated anti-homophobia trainers.
Ellen was recently awarded a Humanitarian Award by the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) for her advocacy work for LGBT students.
Note: these changes only apply to schools in the public system. Half of the schools are part of the Catholic School Board where, of course, nothing is done to support LGBT student. Hypocrites!!