A new report on four school boards’ policies and procedures on sexual and gender minorities points to the need for substantial changes in order to properly protect students and their rights, according to Public Interest Alberta.
Alberta’s government requires all of the province’s 61 school boards to have policies ready by March 31, 2018 in order to meet legal requirements resulting from the passage of Bill 10 and Bill 24. As an interim measure, we asked Dr. Kristopher Wells, Assistant Professor in the Department of Educational Policy Studies at the University of Alberta, to review the currently available policies and related administrative procedures of two public and two Catholic school boards to determine the extent to which they are consistent with the new demands required by legislation.
“The review points to serious and troubling shortcomings in the policies of each of the four boards,” said Joel French, Executive Director of Public Interest Alberta.
Dr. Wells stated, “Our review found that most policies and procedures have not been updated to fully comply with requirements of Bill 24 and do not explicitly protect the privacy and confidentiality rights of LGBTQ students. Supports for GSAs or QSAs – which are legally required – are not clearly supported.”
The report provides a detailed review of each of the four boards’ policies, which in addition to being inadequate were often vague, ambiguous, and hard to access, said Dr. Wells. “An LGBTQ student or parent should not need a lawyer to review school board policies to know whether they will be fully supported and included in their school environment.”
To that end, Dr. Wells has developed a set of criteria for assessing school board policies, as well as a model policy that boards can use to ensure that they are meeting their legal obligations relating to LGBTQ students, staff, and families in clear, systematic, and responsible ways.
Public Interest Alberta Board Chair Larry Booi stated, “It is absolutely essential that all school boards meet the new legislative requirements in clear, comprehensive, and effective ways, and citizens across the province need to examine the policies of their school board to ensure that is the case. We encourage school boards and the public to make use of these tools in developing first-rate policies to protect and include all students no matter what school they attend in the province of Alberta.”
Public Interest Alberta intends to commission further research into the policies of all sixty-one boards once they are publicly available. “In the meantime, the extensive problems with the policies of these four boards point to the clear need for close attention to all board policies after March 31st, and for effective action by government to ensure that each board is clearly protecting and supporting all children as legislation demands.”
Joel French, Executive Director
Public Interest Alberta
Dr. Kristopher Wells, Assistant Professor
Department of Educational Policy Studies, University of Alberta