On Tuesday, Mar. 8th, EPSB trustees approved development of the first LGBTQ policy among school districts on the Canadian prairies — and I was given the great honour of writing and introducing the motion.
During the election campaign last fall, members of Edmonton’s Capital Club sent around a survey seeking responses from candidates on issues relevant to our lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and queer communities. I recall searching the district website to see what policies were already in place. None of the key words I tried yielded a single result.
My first formal request as a trustee was for information to try to fill in this gap. Our new Safe, Caring and Respectful Learning Environments policy declared that biases based on gender identity and sexual orientation were “intolerable,” but at a board level we were not addressing the specific needs our LGBTQ students and staff.
Other trustees followed with requests for additional information. If I hadn’t been asked to introduce a motion to create a policy, one of my colleagues would have taken the initiative.
A crucial aspect of the policy development work will be to move beyond simple tolerance into creating learning centres which are welcoming of differences. I believe that the diversity of this city is one of its greatest strengths.
We’ve been reactive in establishing rights for members of sexual minority groups, waiting for the courts to read clauses into legislation after politicians failed to act. This time, elected officials chose to be leaders, and we’ve received tremendous positive feedback for reaching out to LGBTQ Edmontonians.
Kris Wells of the University of Alberta’s Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services in particular has been a valuable resource for trustees over the last few months.
Another motivator for the board was this blog post by Education Minister Dave Hancock. In response to several suicides among young gay men in the United States, people have been telling It Gets Better stories on YouTube, a resource to which I’ll be directing students, regardless of their orientation.
Whatever happens over the last two and a half years of my term, I suspect the LGBTQ motion will be the legacy that gives me pride at the end of this journey.