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LRSD students played big role in Bill 18

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After nearly a year of debate and discussion, Bill 18 — our government’s anti-bullying
legislation — finally came into effect on Oct. 10.  

It was a monumental day, and I couldn’t be happier that we are taking steps forward to protect all students, and to give schools the tools they need to deal with all forms of bullying, including cyberbullying.

Working on this bill has been an unforgettable and emotional journey. I have travelled around the province connecting with youth, parents and teachers to hear their heartfelt stories about the state of bullying in our province. The support and inspiration I received right here in my home constituency was incredible.

Louis Riel School Division (LRSD) has some of the bravest students in Manitoba.  The movement towards more inclusive schools really exploded two years ago, when 80 students from LRSD met with their school board administration to discuss
homophobia. Since then, the support behind initiatives to create more inclusive schools has been unbelievable.

In May, students from Dakota Collegiate represented their school at the National Gay-Straight Alliance Summit in Toronto. They shared Manitoba’s work on Bill 18 with students from across the country and spoke eloquently about the need to engage schools where resistance to gay-straight alliances still exists.

The students in LRSD understand the basis of Bill 18 — that when we have anti-bullying clubs and respect for acceptance, it benefits everyone in the school. A safe and caring learning environment lets every young person reach their potential.  

The courage of these students is reflected in the staff and administration at LRSD, who are leaders in the fight against bullying. Every year, Sandy Nemeth, division trustee, and her colleagues participate in Pink Shirt Day to symbolize their stance against bullying.     

For two years LRSD has had a Respect for Human Diversity policy to protect students, including on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The work done in our school division was an inspiration to me as our government pushed forward against critics to ensure we passed Bill 18.

Thanks to this bill, all schools in Manitoba will follow LRSD’s lead and establish similar diversity policies based on the principles in the Manitoba Human Rights Code.  

This week we are heading back into the legislature and after four years as Minister of Education, I will be passing that role over to my good friend and colleague, James Allum.  

I could not be prouder of the progress we have made with Bill 18, yet there is always more to be done.

I will be maintaining my role as the point person for the bullying file, and look forward to working with Minister Allum and other stakeholders to continue our work protecting students.  

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