Shane Wagner is the chair of Oak Bay High School's Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA) and assisted in crafting the school district's gender identity and expression policy.

Shane Wagner is the chair of Oak Bay High School's Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA) and assisted in crafting the school district's gender identity and expression policy.

School board gender identity policy ‘a big move forward’

The Board of Education for the Greater Victoria School District has approved the district’s first gender identity and expression policy.

The Board of Education for the Greater Victoria School District has approved the district’s first gender identity and expression policy.

According to board chair, Edith Loring-Kuhanga, the policy was introduced to ensure the support and protection of all students and staff within the school community by outlining the expectations, behaviours, language and actions required to prevent the marginalization or discrimination against any students regardless of sexuality or sexual identification.

“We have an important responsibility to ensure all of our students are safe and supported,” said Loring-Kuhanga.

It’s a responsibility that Shane Wagner feels on a deeply personal level.

Wagner is the chair of Oak Bay High School’s Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA) and assisted in crafting the policy.

“There are still students who don’t feel safe or accepted in their school, or for that matter in the community in general,” said Wagner, adding it’s not unusual to be met with passive discrimination and prejudice in the community and in school.

“This policy is actually a very big move forward, opening more doors for us to create a safe place for LGBT students and helping to create a better understanding of some of the challenges we face on a day to day basis.”

“A lot of people just don’t understand. Hopefully this will help to address that.”

Piet Langstraat, District 61 Superintendent, explained the policy has been under consideration for some time and is simply in-keeping with the core values of the school division values that call for every student and staff member to be treated with dignity and respect and to be able to learn and work in a safe, supportive environment.

School trustee Jordan Watters helped spearhead the development of the policy, and feels the specific gender and sexuality policy was needed despite the existing policies regarding bullying and discrimination.

“What this move accomplishes is to anticipate the needs of our transgender students (and other students in the LGBT community) so that they don’t have to fight the same battles over and over, every time they change schools or classrooms. Everyone tends to concentrate on things like bathrooms and sports teams, but the policy isn’t even mostly about those things. It’s about creating awareness and fostering accepting attitudes,” said Watters.

“In this way we’re not waiting for a problem and then reacting, we’re working to educate staff and students so the problems don’t arise at all,” she said, adding that everyone is starting at a different place on the issue. While some staff and students are already there, others have a bit of a learning curve ahead of them.

While the expression of the sentiment and the changing of attitudes arising from the new policy is vitally important, Langstraat noted specific actions arising from the policy will make an immediate difference.

All schools will be required to include a respect for gender identity within their codes of conduct and every school will have at least one adult who acts as a resource for transgender and gender non-conforming and sexual minority students. In addition, training will take place for counsellors and staff and resource materials will be made available to school libraries and classrooms.

Other parts of the policy’s implementation will include the facilitation of clubs within schools for sexual minority students and the assurance that sex segregated activities (such as sport teams and physical education classes) allow participation according to how students gender-identify.

“The wonderful thing about this policy is how the students helped to make it happen,” said Watters.

“It made what we came up with so much more relevant and it provided those students with an education in civics that they’ll be able to use as they move forward in life.”

Both Watters and Langstraat report no negative feedback from parents or the general public as a result of the policy, which hasn’t been the case everywhere when policies of this kind have been introduced.

“In some municipalities the reaction was one of fear mongering and prejudice,” said Watters. “The positive reaction here in Victoria really makes me proud of our community and it gives me hope that attitudes are changing for the better.”

 

 

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Crews with Central Saanich Fire Department spent Sunday morning mopping up a fire at 7987 Galbraith Cres. that caused extensive damage. The fire displaced six people with its cause still under investigation. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Residents of a Central Saanich duplex ‘fortunate’ to escape Sunday morning fire

Damage to the duplex extensive with one resident said to be ‘catatonic’ after escaping building

Kiana Chamberland was last seen April 15 in Esquimalt. (Victoria Police Department)
MISSING: Kiana Chamberland, considered at high risk

The 24-year-old was last seen April 15th in Esquimalt

Six people are said to have escaped injury and are currently receiving assistance after an early Sunday morning fire in Central Saanich displaced them. (Central Saanich Fire Department/Twitter)
Six people escape early Sunday morning fire in Central Saanich unharmed

Cause of the fire on Galbraith Close remains under investigation

Metchosin ecologist Andy MacKinnon is raising alarm bells for arbutus trees, as many are falling victim to a fungus called leaf blights. The leaves and branches of the trees are turning brown or black and then dropping off, eventually killing them. (Dawn Gibson/News Staff)
Vancouver Island arbutus trees fighting for survival against parasites

Many trees weakened, turning black or brown and dying, says local ecologist

Applied theatre researcher Dennis Gupa wearing a traditional Filipino malong at a local beach in Victoria. (Credit: John Threlfall)
UVic researcher uses theatre to empower marginalized voices, fight climate change

Dennis Gupa looks to create new modes of expression, knowledge sharing

Vancouver resident Beryl Pye was witness to a “concerning,” spontaneous dance party that spread throughout social groups at Kitsilano Beach on April 16. (Screen grab/Beryl Pye)
VIDEO: Dance party erupts at Vancouver’s Kitsilano Beach to the dismay of onlookers

‘It was a complete disregard for current COVID-19 public health orders,’ says Vancouver resident Beryl Pye

A syringe is loaded with COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to open up COVID vaccine registration to all B.C. residents 18+ in April

Registration does not equate to being able to book an appointment

Pat Kauwell, a semi-retired construction manager, lives in his fifth-wheel trailer on Maxey Road because that’s what he can afford on his pension, but a Regional District of Nanaimo bylaw prohibits using RVs as permanent dwellings, leaving Kauwell and others like him with few affordable housing options. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Rules against RV living hard on Island residents caught in housing crunch

Regional District of Nanaimo bylaw forcing pensioner to move RV he calls home off private farm land

(Black Press file photo).
Multiple stabbings at Vancouver Island bush party

Three youths hospitalized after an assault in Comox

Selina Robinson is shown in Coquitlam, B.C., on Friday November 17, 2017. British Columbia’s finance minister says her professional training as a family therapist helped her develop the New Democrat government’s first budget during the COVID-19 pandemic, which she will table Tuesday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. finance minister to table historic pandemic-challenged deficit budget

Budget aims to take care of people during pandemic while preparing for post-COVID-19 recovery, Robinson said

Each spring, the Okanagan Fest-of-Ale is held in Penticton. This year, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the festival will not be held. However, beer is still available. How much do you know about this beverage? (pxfuel.com)
QUIZ: How much do you really know about beer?

Put your knowledge to the test with this short quiz

Lord Tweedsmuir’s Tremmel States-Jones jumps a player and the goal line to score a touchdown against the Kelowna Owls in 2019. The face of high school football, along with a majority of other high school sports, could significantly change if a new governance proposal is passed at the B.C. School Sports AGM May 1. (Malin Jordan)
Power struggle: New governance model proposed for B.C. high school sports

Most commissions are against the new model, but B.C. School Sports (BCSS) and its board is in favour

Russ Ball (left) and some of the team show off the specimen after they were able to remove it Friday. Photo supplied
Courtenay fossil hunter finds ancient turtle on local river

The specimen will now make its home at the Royal BC Museum

Pall Bearers carrying the coffin of the Duke of Edinburgh, followed by the Prince of Wales, left and Princess Anne, right, into St George’s Chapel for his funeral, at Windsor Castle, in Windsor, England, Saturday April 17, 2021. (Danny Lawson/Pool via AP)
Trudeau announces $200K donation to Duke of Edinburgh award as Prince Philip laid to rest

A tribute to the late prince’s ‘remarkable life and his selfless service,’ the Prime Minister said Saturday

Most Read