Public meeting details

Policy Q & A

Where can I find a copy of the draft policy and other information that relates to the policy?

Draft Policy 502.2 Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Gender Expression can be found on the Lethbridge School District No. 51 website here: http://www.lethsd.ab.ca/Policy.php. The changes made to the draft policy following a feedback loop for public input is outlined. The website also contains links to government documents that inform the policy: Bill 10, the School Act, and Alberta Human Rights Act. You can also find a link to the Alberta government document Guidelines for Best Practices: Creating Learning Environments that Respect Diverse Sexual Orientations, Gender Identities and Gender Expressions which was NOT used as a guide for Lethbridge School District No. 51 policy, as this document came out after the policy was written. 

What is currently being done in District schools regarding washroom access?

Currently, our schools have accommodated washroom needs of transgender students through a thoughtful and thorough process that includes meetings with the school staff, parents/guardians, the student and usually a District consultant. When offered an option, many transgender students choose to access an individual washroom to use the facilities and to change for physical education classes.

It is important to note we have not had any instances of students “faking” a different gender identity in an attempt to access washrooms or change rooms.

Will staff at the school let parents know if their son or daughter has expressed anything personal regarding sexual identity, gender identity or gender expression?

Our school staff are always encouraged to be in open communication with parents/guardians about the learning and well-being of their children. Students have always been able to approach a teacher or counsellor with information with the expectation of confidentiality. This does not mean, nor has it ever meant, there is intent to keep things from a family.

Students are entitled to the protection of their personal information, including their gender identity and sexual orientation, according to Section 17 of FOIP (Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act) and the Alberta Teachers’ Association Code of Professional Conduct. Specifically, the Code states a teacher may not divulge information about a pupil received in confidence or in the course of professional duties, except as required by law or where, in the judgment of the teacher, to do so is in the best interest of the pupil. Whether this is explicitly stated in District policy, or if policy is silent on the matter, school staff have a legal obligation to maintain confidentiality.

Our experience has been that, for the most part, students who have identified as LGBTQ have already had conversations with their parents or guardians.

Why is Lethbridge School District No. 51 emphasizing the need for a stand-alone policy regarding LGBTQ students?

The District developed a Welcoming, Caring, Respectful and Safe Learning Environments policy, which is broad based to address the learning environments, rights, safety and care of all students. The LGBTQ population is not explicitly addressed in this policy. To meet legislated government requirements, concerning the establishment of clubs such as GSAs and explicitly addressing the LGBTQ community, the Board developed the Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Gender Expression policy.

In doing so, the Board is guided by the question, what is in the best interest of all students? Trustees carefully considered whether this policy infringes on any child’s rights, freedoms, safety, or privacy and have determined that it does not. Trustees asked themselves whether this policy, in any way, will have a negative impact on any child in our district. The Board determined that this policy does not negatively impact any child.

Trustees asked themselves whether this policy will benefit any children, and the answer is yes.

Trustees felt they could not ignore the data that supports a policy that aims at improving the school life of an at-risk group of students. Although not the majority of students, statistics would suggest that approximately eight per cent of our student population are LGBTQ students and their school experience is as important to Trustees, as all students. Statistics support that LGBTQ students typically experience much higher rates of harassment, discrimination, assaults, suicide rates and homelessness.

What other stand-alone policies does the District currently have in place in regards to other distinct groups within the school community?

Lethbridge School District No. 51 has other stand-alone policies that address the needs of identified populations such as ESL (English as a Second Language), FNMI (First Nations, Metis and Inuit) and for students in need of learning supports.

What is the practice related to LGBTQ students participating on sports teams?

Students are currently permitted to participate in sex-segregated recreational or competitive athletic activities in accordance with their self-declared gender identity. This is fully supported by the Alberta Schools’ Athletic Association in their 2015-2016 Policy Handbook (http://www.asaa.ca/resources/asaa-bylaws-policy) referenced below. As noted previously, changing one’s gender identity at school is a thorough process. Transgender students and their parents/guardians are typically involved in conversations with school staff about access to physical education classes and sports teams. Very careful consideration is given to what team the student plays on, and what information is shared with the coach, other team members, etc. This is a thoughtful process. A male student cannot simply “declare” he is female and sign up for a girls’ sports team, and vice versa.

Page 41 of the 2015/16 Alberta Schools Athletic Association (ASAA) Handbook contains the following “Student-Athlete Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Policy”:

ASAA prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, which includes any individuals who identify as or are perceived as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, two-spirit, queer or questioning. In order to comply with human rights obligations and uphold the principles of equity and inclusion, ASAA maintains the following policy to facilitate and encourage the participation of all students, staff, coaches, managers, trainers and any other persons associated with high school sports to ensure all members of our diverse communities are welcomed, respected, accepted and supported in all aspects of their athletic endeavours. This policy covers participation at ASAA Zone and Provincial competitions and other activities.

The Association believes all students, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression, should have the opportunity to participate in interscholastic athletic activities in a safe, respectful, inclusive and non-judgmental environment.