With a lot of controversy surrounding on how the Clearview division area will incorporate proposed changes to its policy on ‘Safe and Caring Schools’ after government guidelines were issued in January 2016, Superintendent Peter Barron said staff, students and parents would be consulted before any changes are made to the existing guidelines.
“The guidelines by Alberta Education invite learning partners to discuss how best to support students, especially those with diverse sexual identities,” said Barron at a recent board of trustees meeting. “It’s important to keep in mind that these are guidelines for us to consider, and not mandates.”
Barron said Clearview always wanted to look after student needs, so this expectation is not new.
“We will look at the guidelines along with the public, and we may see changes to practices along the way, but it;s critical that the lens through which we look at the guidelines is about looking after all students,” added Barron.
With Alberta Education Minister David Eggen releasing guidelines in mid-Jan which he wants the schools to follow to support the LGBTQ students and teachers there has been a lot of speculation and doubts concerning how the schools will adapt to these changes.
“Clearview already has a policy on ‘Safe and Caring Schools’ which does not specifically mention LGBTQ, but the proposed policy ‘Welcoming, Caring, Respectful and Safe Learning Environments’ aligns more specifically with the new legislation,” said Barron. “The most important factor is always the student.”
According to Barron, Clearview may wish to make some changes across the division, whereas, others will be looked at a case by case scenario.
“The policy will align with provincial mandates, and we will work with our communities to ensure there is strong communication,” said Barron. “In March, we will host some public forums for consultation as well as provide partners opportunity to give us feedback through a survey, and as well, we will consider best practices to inform our decisions.”
William E. Hay Stettler Secondary Campus principal Norbert Baharally said, “Our school has had a LGBTQ student group in our school for the last three years. It is important for all of our students in our school to have a sense of belonging regardless of their sexual orientation or bias.”
Peter Barron also added that Clearview will be looking at the availability of gender neutral washrooms in our schools.
“Some schools already have them, but it’s important to understand that there are all kinds of different reasons why a gender neutral washroom would be desirable,” said Barron. “There is no plan to change how parents will be referred to at this time, but sometimes the official guardians of a student are not the parents, so we will continue to respect how parents wish to be referred to.”
Clearview will hold community meetings on Tuesday, Mar. 15 in Castor and Wednesday, Mar. 16 in Stettler on the proposed changes to ensure the best fit for Clearview’s students and staff.