Schools say gender pronouns not an issue

Parents raise concerns at recent meeting

Red Deer Public and Catholic school jurisdictions say pronouns like he or she are not banned at their schools as part of efforts to provide inclusive environments when it comes sexual orientation and gender identity.

Some parents made the claim and spoke out against it at a meeting led by Education Minister David Eggen at Father Henri Voisin School on Tuesday night, a meeting meant to gather input on curriculum redesign.

Guy Pelletier, school board chair at Red Deer Catholic, who was at the meeting, said some parents focused on the issue of pronouns because it was included in the province’s Guidelines for Best Practices: Creating Learning Environments that Respect Diverse Sexual Orientations, Gender Identities and Gender Expressions.

Guidelines were released last year to help school boards meet the needs of LGBTQ students.

Pelletier said the guidelines were suggestions, not requirements, when it came to aligning division policies with amendments to the Alberta Human Rights Act.

“I’ve never heard it discussed at any level that we should avoid using he or she, or ladies and gentlemen, or anything like that,” Pelletier said on Wednesday.

He said Red Deer Catholic did not specifically address the use of pronouns while amending its safe and caring policy. Only minor changes were required.

“Divisions across the province take their responsibility to create a safe and caring environment for all students very seriously. We’ve always done that and we always will. So I’m not sure we needed the minister to tell us how to do that because we already did it,” Pelletier said.

Bruce Buruma, director of community relations with Red Deer Public, said his district recognizes that people have different views on sexual orientation and gender identity, but pronoun use was not a major issue discussed within the district.

He said pronoun use in the guidelines was basically about respecting an individual’s right about how they want to be identified so it was a non-issue for the district.

“We’ve adopted a policy in regards to sexual orientation and gender identity and within that policy there is a line that the district shall use respectful and inclusive language in its communication to students, staff, families and community,” Buruma said.

“Really at the end of the day, we just have to use what is common sense. If a student is identifying as a particular gender, it’s a matter of being respectful of that. It’s the individual’s right.”