School board to unveil draft policy on sexual orientation and gender identity

The Red Deer Public School board will have its first official look at a proposed sexual orientation and gender identity policy and regulation during its regular meeting tonight.

The Red Deer Public School board will have its first official look at a proposed sexual orientation and gender identity policy and regulation during its regular meeting tonight.

The draft policy, aimed at providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for sexual or gender minority students, employees and families, has been in the works for a while, district superintendent Stu Henry said Tuesday.

The policy states that all references to sexual or gender minority persons or LGBTQ+ persons “will include lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, two-spirit, intersex, queer or questioning persons; persons who are labeled as such, whether they are or not; and persons with immediate family members who identify as a sexual or gender minority.”

Work on the policy began last year under previous superintendent Pete Langstrat, who resigned last year to take a position in British Columbia.

One of the district’s main goals is equity and inclusion of all students so there were a lot of conversations — including with trustees and students — about how to make all students feel valued, Henry said.

While there has been controversy in some other school districts around such policies, Henry said the feeling in the Red Deer district was not only it was time, it was overdue, “to make sure that we address this one area head-on and not just say that it’s covered in other policies.”

Trustees have already been part of the conversation so Henry doesn’t think it will be a big surprise or controversial for them.

Henry said the school board will likely discuss ways of involving the whole community at large for feedback.

“We’ve actually had quite a bit of interest in this in the last few days, and it’s interesting all the interest has been in favour of this, and basically saying this is overdue and how do they support it.

“I suspect it will go out for feedback and I suspect the majority of the feedback will be in favour of it.”

Henry said he does not know how many students would be directly covered by the policy. “I think we could be a completely inclusive environment and there is always going to be kids who struggle with their identity.”

“Our policy actually is not just about students. I think we live in a society where it’s still difficult for an adult to come out, so I think if this goes a little bit toward helping and protecting and making them feel safe and being inclusive of staff members too, then great.

“It’s just throwing our support behind all students and staff.

“This just makes it’s crystal clear this is what we believe in and we want to be open and inclusive.”

Henry expects the draft to be back before the school board in early December.

Among 15 regulations are the following:

l Where students request clubs such as Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs), Queer-Straight Alliances (QSAs), or other similar clubs, they shall be supported at all schools in the district. Students also have the right to call their club a GSA or QSA as required by provincial legislation. Parental permission or notification is not required to attend a GSA or QSA.

l Teachers shall be encouraged to include age appropriate LGBTQ+ examples and perspectives into curriculum that adhere with Alberta Education prescribed learning outcomes to help students acquire the skills and knowledge to understand the unique perspectives and lived realities of sexual and gender minorities.

l Principals will appoint a staff person to be a safe contact for students who identify themselves as LGBTQ+. Principals will inform students and staff about the location and availability of this contact person.

The full proposed policy can be viewed online at rdpsd.ab.ca under District and Board, Agenda and Minutes.

mbarr@bprda.wpengine.com