The Coast Mountains School District (CMSD) is analyzing a new policy on sexual orientation and gender identity in area schools.
“The Coast Mountains School District takes pride in ensuring safe, secure and inclusive schools for all its students while helping students deepen their understanding of the diverse society that we live in, and how to treat each other with dignity and respect regardless of our differences,” wrote school district superintendent Katherine McIntosh in a backgrounder to trustees.
The CMSD board finished its first reading of the three-page policy June 20. It states the school district prohibits any form of discrimination, intimidation or harassment based on sexual orientation; encourages members of the school community to welcome, include and support all, regardless of gender or sexual orientation; and instructs all schools to put protocols in place to support this policy.
The policy was developed by the Policy Review & Development Committee in response to provincial trends.
In July 2016, a Human Rights Code Amendment Act was passed to include gender identity and expression among the protected grounds covered by the Human Rights Code. The Ministry of Education then sent out its own directive for school districts to include explicit references to sexual orientation and gender identity in its anti-bullying policies and codes of conduct.
The CMSD sexual orientation policy’s stated purpose is to define appropriate behaviours in order to prevent discrimination and to ensure that all complaints are taken seriously and dealt with expeditiously.
“If staff wishes to have training, or requires training, we will provide that so they understand the issues that some of our students face,” McIntosh said over the phone.
New regulations will require staff to ensure their school is welcoming and safe for sexual-minority students. Required actions include updating school codes of conduct, communicating clear expectations to students about acceptable conduct, and giving students information that will lead to greater understanding, acceptance and support of sexual minority students. Each school will be responsible for developing its own plan to meet these expectations.
“We trust our principals and our teachers to determine how to go about having those conversations with their students,” McIntosh said. “We don’t direct that from the district level, but just set the expectations that each school ensures every student feels safe and welcome and is treated respectfully.”
McIntosh added students will be encouraged to form what are typically referred to as gay-straight alliance clubs to provide recommendations to school staff on how to build awareness and address discrimination within the student body.
Discrimination includes bullying and intimidation, as well as statements, publication, notices, symbols or other representations that indicate an intention to discriminate.
This may require schools to address discrimination displayed in graffiti, student publications, blogs, websites, or other communication methods.
First reading of the policy will be shared with stakeholder and partner groups to provide feedback over the summer. Second and third reading of the policy is expected to take place in October.
– with files from Quinn Bender