LETHBRIDGE – The Alberta government recently released guidelines surrounding gender identity and sexual orientation in schools across the province, and is asking school boards to develop policies that reflect those guidelines.
“Our approach as a government–from the beginning–has been to allow local democracy to take effect and allow school boards their time to implement their best practices,” Shannon Phillips, Minister of Environment and Lethbridge West MLA, said Friday.
Since the release of the guidelines on Jan. 13, Lethbridge School District 51 has released a draft of its policy, available for the public and parents to review, and provide feedback.
Some of the regulations include, “[having] avenues of recourse, without fear of reprisal, available to [students] when they are victims of harassment, bullying, and/or violence.”
Palliser Regional School District held a meeting Tuesday to discuss a similar policy. Pat Rivard, associate superintendent of education services, said his board will also be opening the discussion to the public.
“Certainly the draft discussions are looking really good, it’s just a matter of ensuring that we have a voice, and that we are considering everybody’s voice,” Rivard said.
A major talking point in these guidelines has been the use of bathrooms by transgendered students. Palliser said in a release that it could be quite costly to switch schools over to gender-neutral bathrooms, but some schools already have them available for students.
“We will ensure that the safety and security of all kids is taken care of and it really will come down to a case by case kind of scenario,” Rivard said.
Rivard added that many of these guidelines are already in place in Palliser schools and that it’s just a matter of formalizing the policy.
“It’s not an issue that’s foreign to us,” Rivard said. “Our students are important to us and we’ve had situations where we’ve had to deal with this issue before.”
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