After a presentation during Tuesday’s regular school board meeting on sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) inclusive schools, school board trustees voted in favour of a watered-down motion to make School District 27 policy more inclusive.
The presentation, given by Sandee Davis, the health promoting schools co-ordinator, was given at the request of the board following a motion in January by trustee Sheila Boehm directing staff to develop a policy based on the SOGI principals circulated to educators in the province.
Her believe was that the school district’s policy on “Safe, caring and orderly schools,” that does reference LGBTQ+ students, does not go far enough when it comes to promoting inclusion in the school district, nor did she think it was easy to find.
At that meeting, the motion was delayed until school district staff could make a presentation on what is currently being done in the school district to meet SOGI guidelines.
Davis’ presentation walked the school board through the three parts of SOGI and how they relate to SD27 schools.
SOGI has three aspects: policy and procedures, inclusive environments and inclusive curriculum.
The current policy, said Davis, does meet SOGI guidelines, and “clearly and directly identifies the LGBTTIQQ population as a marginalized group with very specific risk factors that need to be considered.”
Schools have also worked hard, said Davis, to create inclusive environments for students with different sexual orientations and gender identities. She brought forward examples where teachers say they choose to use inclusive words, the fact that all four of the secondary school campuses have Gay Straight Alliances as well as gender neutral washrooms, and three elementary schools have accommodated gender neutral washrooms as the need arises.
Again, she said, the school district seems to be meeting SOGI inclusive environment guidelines.
Where there is a lack, she said, seems to be when it comes to inclusive curriculum.
“It is less practiced than creating inclusive environments,” she told the board.
She said it is her goal in the future to help teachers become better aware of SOGI curriculum tools to boost their use in the district.
When Boehm’s motion to create new policy based on the SOGI principals was brought back to the floor, Boehm explained that she still thinks the current policy is the “bare minimum” of what the school district could be doing.
Board chair Tanya Guenther disagreed.
“I can’t support this, I think we have a policy in place that is consistent and has been for many years,” she told the board. Trustee Brice O’Neill also told the board he would not be supporting the motion.
“We are always happy to be mediocre,” Boehm said, when she tried to encourage the board to create a new policy more in line with what school districts like Vancouver have done.
Trustees Linda Martens and Willow Macdonald both said they would like to see more done in terms of policy.
Before a vote on the motion was made, Guenther amended the motion to, rather than create new policy, direct staff to review the current safe caring and orderly schools policy for the potential insertion of the term SOGI and its references.
While Boehm told the board she thought it changed the intent of her original motion, the amended motion passed 4-1, with only Boehm opposed.
A later motion tabled by Trustee Martens asking school district staff to look into creating a gender neutral washroom in each school in the district passed unanimously.