Alberta has been working toward making its schools safer for all students, especially for students in the LGBTQ community. When you consider that more than two-thirds of the LGBTQ students don’t feel safe in the schools, it’s about time that the government implemented guidelines that give all kids respect, no matter where they go to school. Bill 10: An Act to Amend the Alberta Bill of Rights to Protect our Children was passed in March 2015 to protect all students, but mostly the LGBTQ community.
Parents Have Questions
The Calgary Sexual Health Centre (CSHC) launched a website to help parents, students, and educators get answers to legitimate questions. It’s located at www.UnderstandingTheGuidelines.ca. This resource helps dispel myths and misconceptions about LGBTQ students. One of the most common misconceptions seems to be that boys will just decide that they want to be a girl to use the girls’ facility. Being a transgendered student goes far deeper than simply using the facilities.
The guidelines are not to give students a pass to behave disrespectfully but are to help all students feel safe and supported while they are at school. It’s more than just providing safe access to facilities; it’s about keeping records that maintain a student’s privacy. Using the correct terminology when referring to a person’s gender identity is another important aspect that cannot be overlooked.
Opponents to the Bill
The publicly funded Catholic schools have maintained that they should not have to comply with the guidelines, with Calgary Catholic Bishop Fred Henry being the most prominent opponent. However, a 2015 survey found that Catholics are very supportive of the policy. There was concern that the Alberta legislature would not pass the bill that protected the rights of all children, but in the end, only two MLAs who are members of the PC party opposed it. The majority supported the bill, but that doesn’t indicate that things will change overnight for these students.
Show Your Support for Equal Rights
Even though the bill passed last year, in March 2015, it’s important to let your MLA know that you support Bill 10. The CSHC website offers a sample letter that you can send to your MLA to let that person understand that the community stands behind this decision. You can also let the school board and staff know that you support the new guidelines. On the CSHC site, there’s a link to find your school board contact.
Parents should also talk to their kids. Use the resources on Understanding the Guidelines from the CSHC site to open a dialogue. Educating yourself is the first step to creating kids who are welcoming and inclusive. You don’t need to have family members who are part of the LGBTQ community to be open and talk. As a parent leader, when you see discrimination happening in the school community, you should step up and stop it.
Students can also take a stand against the discrimination in the LGBTQ community. First, students should not use derogatory language that hurts someone. Help your student report behavior that he or she sees to the proper authorities. Sadly, bullying not only happens during the day while kids are in school, it’s moved to social media. It might be unreasonable for schools to monitor Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, but posts can certainly be reported to the platform being used. Students should also understand that it’s okay to block bullies and unfriend other students because of their actions.
Alberta schools are working hard to make schools a safer place, but change will only happen within each individual. Use the information available to help understand why it’s so important for each child to have respect at school. Share this with your family to make a difference within your own circle. Together, we can change the attitudes around us.