School district drafting first gender identity policy

The Greater Victoria School District is looking to implement its first gender identity and gender expression policy this fall.

The Greater Victoria School District is looking to implement its first gender identity and gender expression policy this fall.

The policy, which is still in the draft stage, ensures “transgender and gender non-conforming students, employees and families are welcomed and included in all aspects of education and school life, and are treated with respect and dignity.”

School district superintendent Pieter Langstraat said the policy shines a light on the needs of the community and ensures the district is providing the proper support and environment for non-gender conforming students

“I think as a community, one of the groups of people who have been underrepresented in things like initiatives and policies are people in that category that we could call transgender, gender questioning or that whole gender identity,” Langstraat said.

“The board wants to focus on that question: are we doing a good enough job for our students and our staff who would be members of that community?”

The policy would touch on issues such as gender neutral bathrooms, changing forms that ask for gender, and single-gender sports and give transgender and non-conforming gender students the option to be included in the group that they identify with.

It would also ensure that counsellors receive training in gender issues, and discriminatory actions and complaints related to gender identity are taken seriously, documented and dealt with.

“When you start to dig into it there are a number of areas where we haven’t been sensitive to the needs of that community,” Langstraat added.

The school district currently has a discrimination policy that includes gender identity, however, school board trustee Jordan Watters hopes the new policy will create a consistency with how all schools in the district deal with gender identity and transgender issues.

“For the most part, our district has done a really good job with this, but there’s always room to do better and policy creates an expectation of consistency across the board and I think that’s something that’s missing,” said Watters, who brought forward the policy along with the district’s sexuality and gender alliance.

The policy is expected to be complete at the end of the school year or early into the fall.

kendra.wong@vicnews.com