More than 500 people gave their opinion on the Grande Prairie Public School District’s proposed gender identity policy and now it’s in the education minister’s hands. Assistant Superintendent James Robinson says that while they were given a framework by the province, it’s important that their guidelines be the right fit for their schools.
“At the end of the day, each student is an individual and we have to apply individual understandings to each situation. You can never write an admin procedure that’s iron clad and black and white; there always has to be that ability to have flexibility in conversation and that’s where we do the best work.”
The final product is also the result of their discussions with members of the community. One of the main concerns they heard was that parents would be left out of decisions regarding their children.
“They said, ‘parents need a right to know what’s going on with their kids,’ and we agree with that,” says Robinson. “Parents are responsible for that and have to know what’s going on. Realistically, parents are partners in education for children and we’re going to be respectful of their right to parent them in those situations.”
As part of the procedure, students will be allowed to choose their gender and use bathrooms and change rooms that match. If students are uncomfortable, private rooms will be made available. Robinson notes there are already several gender neutral washrooms throughout schools in the district and they’ve had no issues in the past.
Bill 10 was passed in March 2015 giving students the right to have Gay-Straight Alliances in schools. Robinson says they already have clubs in the district and their procedure simply confirms they’ll be supported.