The School District 57 board approved an updated sexual orientation and gender identity policy that more explicitly adopts language aimed at protecting transgender or gender-non-conforming students on Tuesday night.
The policy, aimed at providing protections from bullying for LGBTQ students, is in accordance with the provincial ministry of education's guidelines. The new policy states that schools must be free of both homophobic and transphobic behavior. The policy allows students the right to confidentiality in regards to disclosing their sex or gender identity, and prohibits staff from exposing the gender of students without their consent.
The policy also requires all schools in the district have a single stall all-gender washroom, and that each school allow students access to washrooms or change facilities that match their gender identity.
"The district recognizes students have the right to self-identification which includes the name they wish to be addressed and their affirming pronouns which correspond to their gender identity," the policy states.
According to Susan Trabant, a sexual orientation and gender identity resource teacher at College Heights secondary school, the updated policy filled a gap in District 57's policies related to issues of gender identity and transgender students.
"Mostly what has changed has been the language," Trabant said, referring to the expanded glossary of terms.
The terms "gender non-conforming," referring to individuals who do not necessarily follow traditional gender roles, and "transphobia," referring to negative attitudes towards individuals who are or appear to be LGBTQ+, were added to the glossary for the policy.
The new additions to the policy allow for students to have more leeway in determining their gender identity.
The policy states "where gender segregated activities continue to exist, students will have the option to be included in the group that corresponds to their gender identity, or in the case of gender non-conforming students, the group they would like to participate in."
Trabant said a committee developed the changes to the policy with input from community members, educators, parents and two students who are currently enrolled in the district.
She said most educators in District 57 have been eager to learn about gender issues, as well as the best practices to use in identifying LGBTQ students.
"They have been handling it beautifully," Trabant said, referring to teachers in School District 57.