When 16-year-old Shara Layne walked up to her locker at Vanier Catholic Secondary School in October, what she found scared her so much she had to leave school, and hasn’t been back since.
“I looked up at my locker and the word ‘faggot’ was carved into my locker. It was spelled wrong,” Layne said.
Worse than the graffiti itself, Layne said she was stunned and hurt by how the school administration responded to the harassment.
“Me and my friend went to the office to tell the principal and he just laughed in my face, and said he’s not going to do anything about it,” she said.
“He was like, ‘Ha ha, someone wrote “faggot” on your locker? Why would they do that?’”
Layne is openly gay. But according to her, principal Ed Frison was indifferent to the graffiti.
“I asked him to help figure out who it was, and he said he wasn’t going to do anything, even though they have security cameras,” Layne said.
Layne called her mother, Leah White, who immediately contacted the school, but the principal also told her he wouldn’t do anything right away.
“They said they needed to secure a paint that would match the colour of the locker,” White said.
Frison did not return calls for comment by press time.
The graffiti was visible for a week until one of Layne’s teachers and his class took it upon themselves to cover the offensive word with a poster and supportive messages.
“It was wonderful for the teacher to do that, to cover it up. For another teacher to take this on, that’s a really positive thing,” said White, adding that in her and Layne’s experience, many teachers and students at Vanier don’t share the church’s conservative views towards homosexuality.
Even so, the ordeal has left Layne with extreme anxiety and panic attacks. She said she can’t stomach the thought of going back to the school because she still doesn’t know who her tormentor is. The principal never bothered to do any investigation, she said.
Before the incident, Layne had been on track to graduate a semester early. Instead, she’ll enroll at Porter Creek in September, but that still leaves her almost a year behind. She likely won’t graduate with her own class.
“I’m not going back to that school, ever. Not even to clean out my locker,” she said.
Vanier’s policy on sexual orientation and homosexuality came under fire last week after the News reported that a policy document posted to the school’s website labels homosexual actions “intrinsically disordered,” and a “moral evil.” It also violates the Department of Education’s own policy on sexual orientation and gender identity. The department has since told the school it must remove the policy from its website and redraft a new one.
Layne and her mother said that the school’s response to Layne’s harassment is proof that the policy is shaping action and opinion at the school.
Layne came out in August. She said it was an easy decision, and she never expected the school would treat her the way it has.
“It wasn’t that hard. I thought the school would be pretty accepting because they were years before, but …” she said, trailing off.
She wasn’t even allowed to hold her girlfriend’s hand, she said, even though the same restriction doesn’t apply to straight couples.
Layne said the Catholic Church’s position on homosexuality is not just a guiding principle. It is also being preached in classes at the school.
“They are definitely teaching it. I’ve heard some of the new teachers say that being gay is wrong. In class they were talking about abortion and saying it’s like genocide,” Layne said.
Although Layne doesn’t plan to return to Vanier, she’d still like an apology from the school’s administration.
“I guess I want an apology at least – them saying that they messed up. They need to make the school better for gay kids. My friends were pretty outraged that this happened,” Layne said.
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