Division eyes gender identity initiative

Wolf Creek Public School division is taking further steps to ensure the well being of gay, lesbian, transgender and cross-dressing

  • Jul. 4, 2013 10:00 a.m.

BY AMELIA NAISMITH

Black Press

Wolf Creek Public School division is taking further steps to ensure the well being of gay, lesbian, transgender and cross-dressing students and staff with a new procedure.

Although it’s still a work in progress, Wolf Creek Public Schools (WCPS) Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity procedure is nearing the end of its draft stages.

“I’d like to see it operation by fall,” superintendent Larry Jacobs told trustees.

The procedure is a mix of procedures from Vancouver’s school division and an Edmonton public school’s division. Jacobs blended the models to create one that would fit Wolf Creek schools and was more ‘user friendly.’

“Some of the language in the original two was a little bit clunky and it was spoken to from a very big jurisdictional perspective. We don’t have the kinds of tools they get, or the kinds of programming.”

Since reformatting the models, Jacobs released the draft to WCPS staff for comment; he’s discovered the policies surrounding gender-segregated activities still need work.

The procedure reads: “To the greatest extent possible, schools should reduce or eliminate the practice of segregating students by gender (with the exception of already established single gender-based alternative programs). In the classroom activities or school programs where students are segregated by gender, all students should be given the option to be included in the group that corresponds with their consistently asserted gender identity.”

A staff member asked Jacobs if the section included sports, “Because the concern from a lot of people is does that now mean you could have, quote, a man playing on a women’s team, when they refer to it as a medical gender man playing on a women’s team,” said Jacobs.

Jacobs says rewording is still needed to make the draft’s phrasing clear.

“And I can just clarify, maybe sports teams are the exception.”

Except for comments on wording, WCPS staff hasn’t negatively viewed the procedure.

“It’s not being negatively portrayed. I think a lot of people feel it could be cumbersome to implement, especially in smaller rural schools. Because you’ll notice they’re talking about separate spaces and that can be a challenge in some of these schools. But I don’t think anybody is against the concept,” said Jacobs.

The policy is relevant and will directly affect students within the division, as Jacobs says there have been cross-dressing students who considered themselves the opposite sex.

Along with ensuring students, staff and family members of all sexual orientation and gender identities feel safe and welcome within the schools, and all of their needs — including changing rooms — are met, the procedure addresses consequences for discriminatory comments and actions, both physical and digital, such as email or Facebook.

Jacobs says it isn’t enough to punish students with acts such as suspension; the consequences, such as apologies and letters written to the affected family, need to be remedial and teach the offender how to appropriately interact with gay, lesbian, transgender and cross-dressing students and staff.

Appropriate consequences will be in effect across the division and don’t exclude staff members behaving in a discriminatory manner.

However, consequences such as suspensions aren’t being taken out of the division’s vocabulary.

Instead its suspension powers are growing. “We have the authority to suspend students for things they’ve done over the weekend if it’s going to affect school Monday morning.”

Jacobs feels students and parents believe if something transgresses off school grounds, outside of school hours it can’t be touched by the school, but Jacobs says if it’s going to affect the school’s environment and health the school can inject itself into the situation.

“So many people believe once they’re at home they’re safe; they can say anything they want.”

reporter@ponokanews.com