Students members of a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) in Botwood, Canada, say that homophobic classmates threatened to set them on fire.
Pupils at Botwood Collegiate high school in Newfoundland spoke out about their horrifying clashes at the school with a faction of students opposed to LGBT+ rights.
Botwood, the small rural town, has a population of just 3,000.
Canadian broadcaster CBC reports that rainbow posters for the school’s GSA have been repeatedly torn down, while others had black-and-white ‘Straight Pride’ taped over the top.
Speaking to the outlet, GSA member member Ashley Hoskins said there was “pretty much a civil war in the school” between the GSA and the group of anti-LGBT students.
“They wanted to throw us in a box, light us on fire and throw us out in the river.”
— Ashley Hoskins
Hoskins said that abuse had started with repeated vandalism of the posters, but that GSA members have also faced violent threats.
The Grade 11 student said: “They were saying they wanted people to die. They wanted to throw us in a box, light us on fire and throw us out in the river.”
“There were a lot of people who took a week or more off of school because they were feeling that threatened being at school.”
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Gay-Straight Alliance members say school has failed to stop homophobic abuse
Daniel Peckford, one of the founders of the GSA, said that the school had suspended several of the perpetrators but the harassment continued regardless.
He said: “They’ve been suspending students, they used to come back, start doing the same things. They just suspend them again.”
Tony Stack, head of Newfoundland and Labrador English School District, hit out at the “abhorrent” anti-LGBT incidents.
He told CBC: “We will engage whatever means within our scope, in terms of discipline. We can resort to expulsion, ultimately.
“Some of this stuff may breach into the criminal aspect, and we can continue to apply suspensions and some proactive restorative justice measures as well.”
Stack added: “I believe ultimately what’s going to change regressive attitudes and little pockets of hate is education.”
In a statement, Newfoundland and Labrador English School District said that officials are “not at liberty to disclose” information about “school-based discipline.”
Canada has faced debates over LGBT+ inclusive education
LGBT+ inclusive education has become a contentious issue in Canada as resurgent conservatives win more power in the historically-liberal country.
Doug Ford, the new Trump-style Premier of Ontario, Canada, abolished the region’s LGBT-inclusive sex and relationship education programme in July, as one of his first actions after taking power—a decision that was criticised by experts.