Trans* students, families and staff need explicit inclusion
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE -- November 17, 2015 -- ALBERTA
The Trans Equality Society of Alberta (TESA) calls on all Alberta school boards to establish explicit, enumerated inclusion policies for sex and gender minorities in schools, whether students, their families, or school staff.
"It is clear that the Alberta government does not want children or school staff to be discriminated against for their gender identity," says TESA member Catherine Brady, noting disappointment with the Alberta School Boards Association's (ASBA) decision not to develop an inclusive policy for all LGBTQ students.
“As events in Edmonton have shown, trans* children have little by way of protection from exclusionary school practises,” says Brady, a parent, longtime school volunteer and cisgender ally. “Only after enormous public outcry was one little girl allowed to use the washroom of her choice.”
To date, only a handful of Alberta school boards have established explicit policies enumerating protection for gender identity and gender expression for students, their families, and school staff.
"The example of the little girl in Edmonton Catholic School District (ECSD) is not the only case we are aware of," says Brady. “TESA has concerns regarding the treatment of trans* children in other provincial schools. These children are encountering discrimination, frequently in regards to washroom or change room access.”
“These problems are not unique to urban school boards,” Brady says, citing an open letter developed by LGBTQ support organisation OUTreach Southern Alberta, detailing concerns about the lack of clear policies around inclusion and washroom access in three regional school divisions. OUTreach describes at least one case where transgender students have been denied access to the washroom that matches their gender identity.
TESA rejects the idea that policies without explicit mention of gender identity and gender expression, or other terms related to trans* students, their families, and school staff somehow results in inclusion for all. “Did Edmonton Catholic have a policy that explicitly stated 'transgender children must use staff washrooms'?” says Brady. “Not likely. Yet when a trans* child was in one of its schools, the default wasn't inclusion. The default was exclusion and even segregation.”
A recent directive from Education Minister David Eggen requires all Alberta school boards to provide policy, regulations and procedures relating to the inclusion of trans students and staff by March 31, 2016.
Brady notes that while GSAs (Gay-Straight Alliances) for older students may prove helpful for peer-support, trans* children can be outed and excluded almost casually within the school environment. “Consider how easily a trans* or gender non-conforming child can be outed by school record-keeping systems such as attendance sheets,” Brady says. “Unlike lesbian, gay, or bisexual students, young transgender children may face such exclusion long before becoming teenagers where peer-support groups may be of great help. Such children are dependent on the support of the adults around them, and of course, for many hours of the day these adults are teachers and even school administrators.”
Teachers are obligated to behave in a professional manner and act without prejudice to the children in their care. While gender identity has been enumerated for teachers for several years, the fact that Albertans can observe the exclusionary practises in one school board with one child strongly suggests that school environments need more robust, explicit regulation. “Minister Eggen has recognised this fact and has been exceptionally reasonable in providing Alberta school districts several months to act on this issue,” says Brady.
TESA expects all school boards in Alberta to have inclusionary policies for all students, their families, and school staff. TESA hopes that such policies are developed sooner rather than later, as trans* students, their families, and school staff face immediate challenges within the school environment.
ALBERTA TEACHERS' ASSOCIATION -- Code of Professional Conduct
MINISTER of EDUCATION -- Policy and Procedures Related to School Act Sections 45.1 and 15.1
OUTreach SOUTHERN ALBERTA -- Open letter to the boards of trustees of Lethbridge School District No. 51, Palliser Regional Schools, and Holy Spirit Roman Catholic Separate Regional Division #4
TESA -- An ally's view: The importance of Gay-Straight Alliances for Trans* Students
More information about TESA can be found at www.tesaonline.org
back to Newsroom | back to About