Olivier Ciappa

School Cancels Anti-Homophobia Workshop After Homophobic Parent Complains

"He called other parents, called the school board, and went in person in the morning to speak with the teacher in question."

A school in Canada canceled its planned anti-homophobia workshops after a father complained they were inappropriate and embarrassing.

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The dance group Prima Danse was slated to offer four workshops to elementary-school students in Sherbrooke, Quebec, but the school board called a halt to them after just two. In the second workshop, facilitators showed sixth-graders a photo of two Canadian football players, Étienne Boulay and David Testo, in a shirtless, romantic embrace.

Olivier Ciappa

The image is part of a series by photographer Olivier Ciappa called “Imaginary Couples” that addresses homophobia. (Testo is gay, while Boulay is straight.)

After the class, though, the father of one boy complained to the school, leading the board to cancel the remaining two workshops.

“[He] called other parents, called the school board, and went in-person in the morning to speak with the teacher in question and tell them everything that was on his mind,” Prima Danse Katrina Journeau told the CBC.

She claims the parent told her “Sherbrooke isn’t necessarily like Montreal” and that “students in the sixth grade shouldn’t necessarily need to hear about homosexuality.” He also said his child was embarrassed after being shown the photos.

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Quebec recently mandated sex education at all levels beginning in the first grade, and Journeau maintains the anti-homophobia workshops have been given dozens of times with no incident.

Families Minister Luc Fortin said kids see couples being more intimate on the street: “It’s part of reality and I think it’s quite legitimate for those kids to be aware of issues around homophobia.”

School board director Christian Provencher says they will meet with Prima Danse to discuss possibly restarting with a revised program.

“We put all this on ice because we wanted to look at things,” said Provencher. We didn’t pull out of the project for the fun of it—We pulled out because there were things that bothered us.”

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