VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – A new letter writing campaign is urging Christy Clark’s government to introduce a province-wide anti-homophobia policy for schools.

Purple Letter Campaign co-coordinator Ryan Clayton says right now province-wide bullying policies that mention sexual orientation along with things like race and religion don’t do enough, because they are too broad, and teachers don’t know how to interpret them.

“General bullying policies don’t necessarily lay out what is homophobic, so [teachers] are not quite sure when to step in a when not, and it leaves it up to their discretion,” he says.

“So that’s why, for many years, people saying ‘that’s gay’ was never addressed, and teacher’s didn’t step in, because they weren’t sure if that fit under their anti-bullying policy.

“Whereas if you have an explicit anti-homophobia policy, then it’s clear. There’s no ambiguity, and if a teacher does step in a say ‘that’s not acceptable,’ they’re backed up.”

Clayton, who heads Vancouver’s LGBTQ Civic Committee and gives dialogue-based presentations on homophobia in schools, says 14 school districts in the province already have explicit anti-homophobic bullying policies – but they are not without opposition.

After an anti-homophobic policy was introduced in Burnaby last year, a parents’ group called The Parents’ Voice founded a civic party and demanded the right to pull their kids from certain lessons. The group argues that lessons about normal sexual relations should take place in the home, not in school, and that students shouldn’t be discriminated against for their beliefs.

Clayton says parents should be aware it’s not just gay, lesbian, bisexual and transsexual students who experience homophobic harassment.

“I know lots of straight people who’ve been harassed in a homophobic manner because of the way they act, or the way they behave or the way they play sports,” he says. “So we’re also tackling that. We’re tackling the bullying that relates to homophobia.”

Since its launch last month  the campaign has already collected more than a dozen personal stories from people affected by homophobic bullying. Clayton plans to deliver them to the premier’s office on Oct. 20 – the same day a candlelight vigil was held in Vancouver last year drawing attention to a string of gay teen suicides.

The campaign, inspired by Dan Savage’s It Gets Better project, is also calling on Clark to provide resources to all schools on homophobia and transphobia with practical ways to approach situations for all teachers, administrators, and students.

For information or to learn how to submit a letter, visit purplelettercampaign.ca.