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Deadline for LGBTQ school policy approaches

Report identifies problems
A new report from Public Interest Alberta provides a policy model that school boards can adopt to support sexual orientation and gender identity. (File photo by BLACK PRESS)

Some school boards may have more work to do than others when it comes to their policies to support LGBTQ students, staff and families, says the author of a new report.

Public Interest Alberta’s Progress Report on LGBTQ Policies of Four Alberta School Boards showed policy problems with each jurisdiction — Westwind School Division and Christ Redeemer Catholic Schools in Southern Alberta, Buffalo Trail Public Schools in Eastern Alberta, and Edmonton Catholic Separate School District.

Kristopher Wells, assistant professor in the Department of Educational Policy Studies at the University of Alberta who did the review, said each of the boards’ policies were inadequate, often vague, ambiguous, and hard to access.

“These policies are very hard to find on district websites so we’re really glad the ministry has made that a requirement, that these policies are clearly and prominently displayed on district websites, as well as the links being shared in the schools,” Wells said on Wednesday.

He said most of the policies and procedures in the review were not fully updated to satisfy Bill 24 and did not explicitly protect the privacy and confidentiality rights of LGBTQ students. Supports for gay-straight alliances and queer-straight alliances were not clearly supported.

“Students and parents shouldn’t need lawyers to figure this stuff out. It’s too important for school boards not to get it right.”

He said many boards do have good policies. In a previous report policy from Red Deer Public Schools was reviewed and found to be one of the exemplary school districts for its work to support sexual orientation and gender identity.

“Even Red Deer will have some adjustments to make in their policies because the legislation is quite specific as to what needs to be in policies.”

Wells said the review includes a model that school boards can adopt to meet legislative and legal requirements.

“We’ve done the work for the boards. We tried to do a bit of the homework and the heavy lifting.”

After June 30 when all the policies are required to be publicly posted, Public Interest Alberta will review policies from each of the 61 boards.

“Our goal is to create the very best policies possible to ensure that LGBTQ students, staff and families are fully included, supported and valued in their school communities.”

School boards have until March 31 to prepare their policies.

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