Marley Bowen was disappointed to hear only 13 kids showed up to a talk about inclusion and acceptance at MSB Regional Academy in Middle Arm on Tuesday.
But she was even more disheartened to see the conversations online from parents in the town on Newfoundland’s Baie Verte Peninsula.
As an executive member of the Get Real Movement — an organization travelling the country speaking to students about LGTBQ inclusion — she has never encountered this type of response.
“It was super disheartening to hear,” she said. “Some people referred to us at the ‘gay class,’ or the ‘gay course’ or something, which is definitely ridiculous.”
Bowen wasn’t in Middle Arm on Tuesday, but was briefed by a member of her team on how things went. A little while later, someone told her to check the comments on Facebook.
A thread shared publicly shows parents discussing their reasons for keeping their kids home from school for the presentation.
“I hope every family with any biblical morals will be keeping their kids home,” one parent wrote.
“I can promise you that I will not be allowing my children to attend this course,” wrote another. “I have no interest in allowing my children to become indoctrinated by the Liberal moral compass.”
“One of these days something bad will happen in OUR schools,” said another person. “[And] we’ll be all wondering where was God????”
Bowen knows a thing or two about growing up gay in rural Newfoundland. Before leading the national organization, she was a young girl from Norris Point on Newfoundland’s Northern Peninsula.
She waited until university to come out to her friends and family, but said her experience ended up being one of love and acceptance.
She wishes it could be the same for everyone, but until then, Bowen said she is committed to spreading the message of the Get Real Movement.
“For me if anything, it just drives the need to bring the program back to Newfoundland again and again and again.”
Paid for by provincial grant
Get Real was brought to the province’s schools by a provincial government grant announced back in February.
“This program aligns with the Safe and Inclusive Schools policy and the work of the school district to foster an inclusive and accepting culture within our schools,” the school board said in a statement.
Messages to some of the parents were not returned and a post where many the comments originated from was deleted on Tuesday evening — but not before it was screenshotted and re-posted by someone else. That post has garnered more than 300 shares.
Bowen says she isn’t heartbroken by the reaction. Instead, she’s trying to process it rationally.
“I think a lot of it just roots from fear. We always fear things that we don’t know,” she said. “Kids need to meet other people other than their classmates in their small towns.”