SD51 continues to work on sexual orientation identity policy creation

School District 51's (SD51) policy committee continues to work on creating a sexual identity policy for the school district.

Trustee Vicki Gee (left) raised the issue of creating a sexual orientation policy for the school district during a School District 51 school board meeting on Dec. 11.

School District 51’s (SD51) policy committee continues to work on creating a sexual identity policy for the school district.

Trustee Vicki Gee, a representative for the school district’s policy committee, explained during a meeting in November there were some questions about what the policy on sexual orientation policy would entitle. This is in light of the Ministry of Education’s new Erase Bullying program, aimed at preventative measures, education and reporting of bullying.

“At the policy meeting, there were questions about whether or not there should be a separate policy in regards to sexual orientation,” she said. “There was a feeling that by having a separate policy that it might single out students who identified as gay, bisexual or a different gender. There was also the question about whether or not some of the Erase Bullying material would overlap or give us a different direction.”

Gee pointed out the issue is less about those who identify as being gay, but focuses more on educational knowledge and sexual health.

“By treating it as another “Let’s be nice to everybody” piece, we’re losing an opportunity to get into some of the issues,” she added.

Trustee Cathy Riddle noted she has heard from students that they need education on the issue, not just policy.

“We can write a policy and put it out there but what is it going to do for our kids? If we had more of a process in place instead of just a policy, that’s where we need to put our efforts into,” she said. “Regardless of who they are or what they are coming to our staff about, they (students and parents) should know there is a culture here that everything will be done accordingly and in a timely fashion.”

At the previous meeting discussing the creation of the policy last December, Riddle said, “Policy should be inclusive of all, not exclusive of one. The culture of acceptance of diversity in our district is the most important piece and how to achieve that culture is where our conversation needs to begin.

“Anything said with the intent to hurt is bullying but when it becomes physical, it’s not longer bullying anymore – it’s assault, it’s intimidation,” she added at this meeting.

There are currently 14 districts in B.C. that have a policy dealing with sexual orientation and the remaining 54, including SD51, do not.

SD51 mentions the issues of bullying and racism under its current policy but it is located amongst other topics. There is nothing specific that addresses the biases in treatment of students of differing sexual orientation, nor any further education about the subject.

“I firmly believe that it cannot be exclusive to one group. I see it as respect to human diversity and that’s what it is; it doesn’t matter what that diversity is. It’s respect for each and every one of us as individuals,” said Board chair Teresa Rezansoff.

“Rather than creating pieces of policy around exclusive groups, it’s about the diversity of our people and everybody,” added Superintendent of Schools Michael Strukoff.

Strukoff explained the Erase Bullying project is currently web-based and can be found on each school’s webpage.

“Another discussion we will have to have is how are they going to get the information out to students,” he said. “The district committee of Jennifer Turner, Shawn Lockhart, and myself have met and we have passwords and access codes to the reports. If somebody places a report, we automatically get a notification that a report has been placed and we will have to check on it. Everything has to be done in a timely fashion.”

The board passed a motion for the policy committee to continue to look into creating a draft on a policy about sexual orientation, with no set deadline.

Strukoff noted more information on Erase Bullying and how the program will proceed would be discussed on the Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2013 meeting.

For more information on Erase Bullying, visit the link at SD51’s website, sd51.bc.ca.