Game Changer For LGBT Students: Wide-Sweeping School Board Mandate

After all the nonsense LGBT discrimination we’ve seen in the last few months, it’s about freakin’ time we heard some good news!

The Education Minister for Alberta, Canada (yes, the province where the “kudatah” idiots are from) has just released a comprehensive LGBT-friendly mandate for all Alberta school boards to follow. The school boards are required to enact these guidelines by March 2016.

The guidelines state that students must be able to choose their own pronouns, either “he” or “she,” or less traditional pronouns like “ze” or “they.” Although legal names will still be used on official forms, teachers are encouraged to call students by their chosen names and pronouns.

They also suggest that best practise is to try to avoid gender-segregated activities (even for athletics) as much as possible. But in cases of segregated sports teams, the students should be “given the opportunity to participate on the team that reflects their gender identity and expression.” If a student is uncomfortable with group athletics, a self-study athletics course should be offered to the student.

Bathrooms and changing rooms are a frequent source of angst for LGBT folks as well as for reactionary school and community members, and this guideline addresses the concerns of both groups. All students (and staff) are encouraged to use the bathrooms relating to their gender identity, or to use non-gendered single stall bathroom, provided “for use by any student who desires increased privacy, regardless of the reason.”

The policy is pretty much the same for changing rooms, except they made it even more awesome and inclusive. Any child “who objects to sharing a washroom or change-room with a student who is trans or gender-diverse” (or who has a parent objecting on their behalf) shall be provided with an alternate area in which to change. Didja hear that? The student who objects to changing near a trans person is the one who has to find a new changing space. This sets the standard for inclusive guidelines in schools.

The document also recommends that schools set a precedent for inclusive behavior by embracing diversity within the school staff.

Lastly, it guarantees students the right to participate in gay-straight alliances, and that a school staff member must be available as a faculty support.

Of course, there is now the immediate knee-jerk backlash of folks claiming that the province is now morally bankrupt, that kids are too young to understand gender identity, and that this will virtually guarantee that girls will be sexually assaulted in change rooms and bathrooms. Or that boys will choose to join a girls’ sports team in order to dominate.

Of course, those people are blinding themselves to the fact that trans women are the most vulnerable group. Period. And of course children understand gender identity, and are usually pretty open toward non-traditional gender identities unless their parents teach them small-minded hate. And obviously, there is a huge difference between a cis boy and a trans girl. But these righteous warriors won’t let facts get in their way.

All this sounds good on paper, but the real test will be when the school boards put these guidelines into practise. Still, it’s a huge step forward to maintain the safety and well-being of all Alberta students. Hopefully other Canadian provinces and US states follow suit.

Featured image by torbakhopper, available under a Creative Commons 2.0 Attribution-Sharealike license