Beurling Academy Safe Space (BASS): A Symbol of Acceptance and Support
by Helena Tsitouras
Pride Month is a time of celebration and acceptance, and at Beurling Academy, this sentiment has been embraced wholeheartedly through the recent implementation of a LGBTQIA2+ support group. Introduced this past fall, the group, known as Beurling Academy Safe Space (BASS), has become a symbol of inclusivity and community within the school.
Composed of around 10 members from different grade levels, BASS holds lunchtime meetings with an open-door policy, allowing students to feel comfortable and encouraged to join. The group emerged as the previous alliance group ‘Rainbow Umbrella Group’ dwindled down as members graduated. A group of dedicated staff members recognized the need for continued support and came together to fill the gap. The LGBTQ+ Allies staff members includes teachers Melanie Burns, Amelia Waters-Côté, Andrea Horvath, Dawn Cambell, Maggie Panko as well as Sheila Marcotte (Resource Teacher), Chantal Melrose (Support Staff), Simone Viger (Community Development Agent) Annie Bakopoulos (CLSC Nurse), and Jo-Ann Centauro (School Psychologist).
The creation of BASS started with a sensitivity workshop offered to school staff members at Beurling that aimed at deepening their understanding of the LGBTQIA2+ community and equipping them with the necessary tools to address related issues. This commitment to education and empathy laid a solid foundation for BASS to succeed. Next, BA kicked off the introduction of BASS by welcoming radio personality Kelly Alexander, to talk about ‘Brave Space’ in support of LGBTQIA2+ students. Kelly shared her personal journey of coming out to peers and family. The event concluded with an invitation to the school population to join the new Safe Space club.
Since then, the group has embarked on various initiatives, including the design of a logo that represents unity and acceptance. They organized a school-wide Easter egg hunt, with colored eggs hidden in ‘rainbow’ corners throughout the school, fostering a sense of excitement and community. Additionally, BASS participated in a special field trip to Pierrefonds Community High School for their International Day of Pink celebration and to hear from Martin Boyce, an attendee of the Stonewall Riots, whose story provided invaluable insights into the history of the LGBTQIA2+ movement.
Most recently, BASS initiated a project that engaged the entire school community. Collaboratively, they created a banner that reads, “Happy Pride month/week from BASS.” BA students were encouraged to write their personal messages of support and acceptance. Heartfelt statements such as “Be proud, be you, be gay” and “Don’t be shy to come out” adorned the banner, which hung proudly in the hallway, serving as a constant reminder that all students at Beurling Academy are loved, welcomed, and supported.
Reflecting on the impact of BASS, Grade 7 student, Olivia W-M shared, “When I joined BASS, I realized it was really fun. We got to plan and do a lot of stuff, and it’s for a good cause. You get to raise awareness.” For the students, BASS is about creating a community and fostering genuine friendships in the hopes of inspiring others.
As Pride Month unfolds, Beurling Academy stands as an example of acceptance and support, thanks to the efforts of BASS. Their dedication to raising awareness and creating a safe space for all students paves the way for a more inclusive future, not only within the school but in the wider community as well.