WSD to develop first-in-Manitoba policy for transgender students
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This article was published 02/11/2015 (2776 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Winnipeg School Division could have the province’s first public school division policy on protecting transgender students before the end of the school year.
Trustees unanimously approved Lisa Naylor’s proposal Monday night for a safe and caring policy in support of transgender nonconforming students.
Now it goes off to the policy/program committee which Naylor chairs, to figure out how to write a policy that works.
There was virtually no discussion Monday night — it passed 8-0, with trustee Mike Babinsky sitting out Monday night as part of his one-month suspension.
One of the most difficult issues may be developing a way for teachers and schools to help transgender students whose parents deny they are transgender, said Naylor.
“It’s a very tricky situation if that arises,” she said in an interview after the vote. “What do schools and teachers do when the parents are not supportive?”
“I’d like to see us be leaders here,” Naylor told trustees.
She believes it is the first policy in Manitoba public schools meant specifically to protect transgender students.
WSD was a pioneer in anti-homophobia education, and has strong policies against bullying and harassment.
165 transgender students
But those policies don’t address the particular needs of transgender students, said Naylor, who believes about 0.5 per cent of students are transgender — meaning there are about 165 transgender students in WSD schools.
Having other policies to protect students “doesn’t speak to what to do in a lot of circumstances,” she said.
“Educators have told me that they don’t always know the best language to use or how to best support transgender students in their classrooms,” she told the board.
The policy needs to cover transgender students’ needs around washrooms, change rooms, school teams and field trips, Naylor said.
Naylor was uncertain what form of consultation her committee would conduct, and if there were any means of hearing from students who did not want to identify publicly as transgender.
She met last week with senior administrators already looking into the issue, and two students and their families attended, Naylor said. “The ground is set within the division — those stories are being presented to us,” she said.
When she tabled her motion last month, Naylor said her proposal was not prompted by any issue in Manitoba, including the case of Bella Burgos, whose complaint against River East Transcona School Division is going to a Manitoba Human Rights Commission hearing. Bella was eight when she said a parent bullied her for trying to use the girls washroom. Her father, Dale Burgos, said recently the division had not offered any acceptable accommodation and mediation had failed.
“This was not prompted by issues in other school divisions, but rather by conversations I have had with youth that I work with and in my community,” Naylor said.
“I know that WSD is a supportive and safe school division for transgender students, but I don’t know if youth and their families are as aware of this as we would like them to be. A set of guidelines specific to these families’ needs would create better visibility,” she said. “I also think it would help school staff and families better negotiate areas that may be unfamiliar or complicated.”
Naylor acknowledged several school divisions “include mention of and specific support for transgender students in policies on anti-bullying or anti discrimination… and some school divisions have provided accommodation with gender-neutral washrooms,” including WSD and Seven Oaks, Naylor said.
But Naylor is not aware of any division with a comprehensive and umbrella policy.
Updated on Monday, November 2, 2015 9:13 PM CST: Writethrough, adds sidebar