Diverse sexual orientations, gender identities in Prairie Land schools

Prairie Land School Division

Superintendent of Schools Cam McKeage called Minister of Education David Eggen’s recent “Guidelines for Best Practices: Creating Learning Environments that  Respect Diverse Sexual Orientations, Gender Identities and Gender Expressions” his “pet project” at the Prairie Land Regional Division’s (PLRD) last meeting on Feb. 25, and does not see him backing down from this project

A draft policy on Respectful Learning Environments for Diverse Sexual Orientations, Gender Identities and Gender Expressions was reviewed and discussed by board members of the  PLRD prior to the meeting and most trustees were quite vocal about their position.

Trustee Jada Hill followed up McKeage’s presentation stating her lack of support for the new guidelines.  She went on to explain that many of the policies listed in the new guidelines were already covered in the division’s safe and caring practices currently in place.

Hill said she believed that under the current safe and caring policy, students “get what they need” therefore she does not understand why these extra policies need to be implemented when students who have, for instance, learning disabilities have to jump through hoops.

Trustee Dean Hansen countered stating that there are currently cultural, religious and various learning disability support groups already in place to give the required focus and attention to the affected families and individuals for those issues.  However there is nothing not for this particular group.

Trustee Barry Davis said that he has heard countless stories about people from the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual and Queer (LGBTQ) community about how most “start to live after school and that many hate what they are but it is what they are.”

McKeage stated that these new guidelines are going to be regulated by the government but added he personally feels that “these people aren’t getting what they need”.

He went on to say that one of the points of this policy is that it will help provide everyone with the proper tools to handle any situations that arise, because as it stands not everyone has the skill set or is comfortable dealing with this.

Chief Deputy Superintendent Steve Nielsen asked the board “what harm is done by putting the best practices in place?” to which trustee Angie Warwick countered with, “It goes against some people’s religious convictions”.

Trustee Hansen said that he did have great concerns about parents being left out of the information loop, as alluded to in the new best practices.  He went on to say that he feels “kids have larger problems that aren’t just in school if, for as much time as they spend with their parents, they can’t or won’t share” this area of their life with them.

Trustee Lyle Cawiezel felt that if that was the case the school is then “delving into an area beyond our capabilities”.

In conclusion of this particular agenda item for the day, McKeage and Nielson spoke of their plans to meet with PLRD School Councils to obtain feedback on the draft policy.

The draft policy feedback will be reviewed and discussed prior to pending approval by the Board.

Alberta Education is requesting that the policy be submitted to the Ministry by March 30, 2016.

2016-2017 guiding principles
The Board passed a motion to adopt the 2016-2017 Budget Guiding Principles as amended and used in the preparation of the 2016-2017 budget development.  The Board will endeavour to hold minimum staffing levels at the current 2015-2016 pupil-teacher ratio.

Travel insurance
The Board passed a motion that the travel accident and trip cancellation insurance provided by Lloyd Sadd be required for all international trips effective the 2016-2017 school year and recommended for those trips that are planned for this year.

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