Public schools address sexual orientation and gender identity

  • Oct. 21, 2015 2:47 p.m.

With unanimous support, the Board of Trustees for the Red Deer Public School District (RDPSD) have given initial approval to a new policy addressing sexual orientation and gender identity.

The policy was created to address the issue of student and staff well-being in schools, and to support an environment where community members are not in a place of fear. The policy will promote proactive strategies and guidelines that work to ensure students, staff and families are welcomed, included and free of discrimination.

Bev Manning, chair of the Board of Trustees, said she is pleased to see how the policy has been welcomed by the school community. “I have been very encouraged by our community,” Manning said.

“I felt supported in having the discussions and I feel our discussions have been respectful. When everybody is treating one another with respect and we are talking about things that matter to kids and families in our community, I think we’re all lifted higher. I really feel that’s what we have accomplished with these discussions and how this policy has been developed. I look forward to that continuing.”

Manning said conversations began around a year ago to develop a better policy in addressing the safety, well-being and education quality of students and staff who are ridiculed for their sexual orientation or gender identity.

The proposed policy will be referred to principals, school staffs, school councils, the Coordinating Committee and the general community for further input, before returning to the Board for further changes and possible adaptation.

“It’s not a matter of acceptance – it is a matter of procedures and guidelines for our District staff to help them in doing their jobs properly,” Manning said.

“That’s what policy is all about. When we create policy, what we’re looking for is a consistency among our staff and students. What we’re looking for is to make sure people feel safe. We want to provide the best education possible to every student who walks through our doors, no matter what they bring with them. No matter what you bring, you are entitled to and deserve the same education experience and the best education that we can provide.”

Manning explained there has been and will continue to be an extensive consultation process between community and school members. “This is to deal with all of our students and staff – whatever they bring to us, we want them to feel safe. That means whatever people identify as – whether that is transgender, or gay, lesbian, bi, questions, queer – we accept everyone just as they are. We want to make sure our schools are safe places for them – that’s where this discussion and policy came from,” Manning said.

“We sort of began our discussion last year and took our time to evaluate what the best way to bring forth a policy was. We did a bunch of research into other policies and eventually we came out with this one. We had some help drafting it and we think it’s a good start.”

kmendonsa@reddeerexpress.com

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