Respecting diverse sexual orientation in Clearview schools

Less than 50 parents of Gus Wetter School students in Castor attended the public meeting held at the school on Tues., Mar. 15 to voice their concern to the Clearview School Division over the new “Guidelines for Best Practices: Creating Learning Environments that  Respect Diverse Sexual Orientations, Gender Identities and Gender Expressions”.

Clearview School Division Superintendent of Schools Peter Barron along with Coronation and Brownfield trustee Ken Checkel were two of the many Clearview School Board representatives who hosted an information sharing session with concerned parents and teachers.

Their primary goal was not to instruct parents but rather “to gather insight and understand all the implications of this incredibly complex issue”, stated Barron.

Trustee Checkel opened the night’s agenda by going over the 2015 changes to legislation to provide some background, which included a recent focus on anti-bullying and the impending policy changes.

However, the bulk of the evening was spent in small groups for “table discussions”.
Sitting with each small group was a Clearview representative who took notes after asking four questions:
1. What can you support on the guidelines?
2. What concerns do you have about the guidelines?
3. What else would you like the board to understand about the guidelines?
4. What would you advise the board to do next?

Some of the main concerns that were expressed to the board that night were as follows:
– We would like to see the document expanded to include other groups.
– We would like to see the research that supports the new changes.  If we allow “kids” to choose their gender, how will this impact them in the long term?
– We need to look beyond Castor and be welcoming to all groups.
Society changes and evolves. At one time women, people of differing races, the handicapped were all marginalized.  We need to think big picture.  In order to do so we need changes like this to facilitate positive change.
– We don’t want the rights of the parents taken away without the knowledge of the parents.
Teachers are not counsellors, that is not their jobs. Identity confusion is an issue larger than teachers alone should be dealing with and therefore parents need to be brought in sooner and we want to see this reflected in the new guidelines.
– Children should respect the families they originated from and therefore should not have the right to change their legal names.
– Make it about education in the schools.  Gender issues should be dealt with at home.
– This extra stuff creates the “perception” of safety, making teachers who are not trained to deal with this into counsellors and that is unfair to everyone.

One teacher voiced her concern about a point in the new guidelines that states, “All staff are willing and able to actively listen to a student’s concerns, respect the student’s privacy and confidentiality and work collaboratively with others to identify and implement evidence-based supports that will make a positive difference for this student.”

She stated that although this was ideal, in truth, living up to that would be challenging as not every teacher has the skill set, interest or the ability to listen to this kind of issue.

The same teacher also was concerned about not being able to use the pronouns “he” or “she” in the classroom but instead having to use “ze” or “zir” in place, citing this “made up” language was problematic in a group setting.

Another deep concern was the elimination of segregating students by gender for school sports.
Many parents expressed strong opposition to this fearing the death of female sports.

Many parents of daughters claimed that they knew their daughters would not compete against males in school for positions on team sports.  Confidence was already fragile for school-age girls and expecting the average female athlete to compete against the boys was simply going to kill female competitive sports.

All concerned parents are encouraged to voice their opinion to the Clearview School Board as they prepare their draft policy in order to meet the Minister of Education’s deadline of March 31.

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