On Friday, my motion to create a policy supporting LGBTQ kids was sadly not passed by the ASBA Board of Directors:
“That the Alberta School Boards Association develop a comprehensive policy for establishing and maintaining welcoming, inclusive, safe and healthy learning and working environments for sexual orientation and gender minority students, staff and families and all members of the school community. The policy shall incorporate the guidelines for best practices from the ministry of education on supporting SOGI students as well as provisions contained within Bill 10. This policy shall be developed in consultation with the membership for ratification at the Spring General Meeting”
I revised the language from my previous motion presented at the Fall General Meeting to include the guidelines introduced by the Minister of Education. Please see: http://nathanip.com/sogiupdate/
While some directors expressed resistance to debating this issue, especially given the contentiousness of public debate on the guidelines and the remarks from Bishop Fred Henry, I believe the risk is greater to remain silent and be presumed complicit in the discrimination of LGBTQ students.
The often polemic debate being played out in the media over the support of LGBTQ students is precisely why it is crucial at this juncture for ASBA to have a policy on the books.
Numerous Public and Catholic boards such as Edmonton Catholic and Fort McMurray Catholic have come out in support of the Ministerial guidelines.
The time is now for the ASBA to send a message in support of some of the most vulnerable children in our province. Without policy, The ASBA cannot meaningfully advocate and speak in support of marginalized students in the province. Additionally, without a policy, the ASBA President is not given clear direction as to how her office can support school boards. The President would be unable to articulate a position to the media or future Ministers.
I had hoped that ASBA would take a stand in full-throated support of the policy and most importantly our LGBTQ students, staff and families. In the past, ASBA had passed numerous resolutions supporting other vulnerable student groups including English Language Learners and our First Nations Metis Inuit Students. In fact, differentiation has been a recognized tenet of education for some time. ASBA has established various task forces in support of student health and assessment. And yet, the organization has remained willfully silent on the issue of protecting LGBTQ students, staff and families.
LGBTQ students, staff and families whom have been on the margins for so long deserve and require respect, acknowledgement and a safe space to learn and work.
During the HIV/AIDS pandemic of the 1980’s, advocates championed the mantra: “Silence equals death”— expressing the need to talk about the dangers of HIV/AIDS and urge a sleepy public, government, and health care system to address a massive public health crisis.
Today, “Silence equals death” applies to the incredible need for supporting vulnerable kids. When adults say that we don’t need a policy to support you – it is like saying to LGBTQ students that you do not need to be acknowledged, you do not matter, or we do not want to end Homophobia. It is exactly the wrong message to send.
Sadly, my motion was not passed and instead a replacement motion was put forward referring this motion back to other channels and other committees.
I am disappointed, hurt, and sad for the students, staff, and families who are victims of discrimination in our province, and it pains me that the ASBA, a provincial association that purports to be strong advocates for all kids cannot step forward and say that we want you to be safe, welcome, and to be truly who you are.
To me, this issue is a fundamental human rights issue, of which the law has been very clear. It is frustrating that an association that receives our taxpayer dollars and advocates on our behalf is silent yet again on issues that matter. I, along with my colleagues at the Edmonton Public School Board will continue to advance this issue through all available avenues until every child in Alberta is guaranteed a safe place to go to school.
The marginalization of LGBTQ students is very much an ongoing issue that requires attention. I would encourage you to read Julia Hrdlicka’s (Trustee, Calgary Board of Education) blog post. She does a fantastic job outlining the perils that many LGBTQ students face simply because of their sexual orientation or gender identity: https://jhrdlicka.wordpress.com/2016/01/18/protecting-lgbtq-kids-this-is-a-no-brainer/