ALBERTA

Alberta School Boards Association Asked To Take A Position On LGBTQ Policy

11/16/2015 11:32 EST | Updated 11/16/2015 11:59 EST
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EDMONTON — The Alberta School Boards Association is being asked to take a clear position on whether it supports protecting students and staff who identify as sexual or gender minorities.

The proposal is to be presented today at the association's fall general meeting involving 61 public, Catholic and francophone school boards.

A motion from Edmonton Public Schools calls for the association to support all boards in establishing inclusive, safe and healthy learning and working environments for everyone.

Michael Janz, the Edmonton board's chairman, says research has shown that sexual-minority youth experience more bullying, harassment and alienation than their heterosexual peers.

Currently 13 of Alberta's publicly funded school divisions have some form of a policy — none is Catholic.

The association voted down a similar motion in 2012.

"The Alberta School Boards Association has been silent on these issues,'' Janz said in an email.

Boards should be encouraged "to counter pervasive cultural biases against sexual minorities through proactive policy to ensure that all sexual orientation and gender identity minority individuals are welcomed, respected, accepted and supported in all of their schools,'' he said.

Association president Helen Clease said it is possible that the boards will not deal with the issue at the meeting. They must first decide whether the proposal meets the criteria of an emergent motion, she said.

Clease noted it wasn't vetted by the association's policy development committee.

It would be good if the motion came to the floor for debate, she suggested, but Clease wouldn't say if she personally supports it.

"I do have 61 different boards with very diverse opinions out there. It would be best to let the floor speak.''

Alberta Education Minister Dave Eggen said he is aware of the motion and will give a speech on Tuesday to the association outlining his expectations around support for all students, including the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community.

Earlier this month he sent a letter to school boards noting that provincial law requires boards to create a safe learning environment for LGBTQ students. He has given the boards until March 31 to provide draft policies back to the ministry for review.

"I have directed all boards to create necessary policies or ensure their current policies ensure that students are free from discrimination,'' Eggen said in an email.

"As a government, we will do whatever is necessary to support all students.''

Last month, the government hired an adviser to help the Edmonton Catholic School District come up with a policy after some trustees feuded over the issue during a public meeting.

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