Many people have questions and concerns about how the new Guidelines will impact their school community.
Here is some evidence-based information to help clarify misinformation and provide facts, based on research and lived experiences.
Why are these Guidelines needed?
- The Guidelines are an important tool to help schools ensure a safe environment for all members of the school community – including students, staff, parents and other family members.
- Bullying and discrimination are a common, if not daily, occurrence for LGBTQ youth and adults. Transgender youth in particular are targets of harassment and physical, verbal and sexual assault.
- Often LGBT youth do not feel safe at school, leading to anxiety about attending school and high rates of dropping out.
- Three-quarters of LGB students and 95% of transgender students report feeling unsafe at school. Taylor, C., Peter, T., Schachter, K., Paquin, S., Beldom, S., Gross, Z., & McMinn, TL. (2008). Youth Speak Up about Homophobia and Transphobia: The First National Climate Survey on Homophobia in Canadian Schools. Phase One Report. Toronto ON: Egale Canada Human Rights Trust.
- LGBT youth are also 3 to 10 times more likely to attempt and complete suicide.
- Refer to the “Research on LGBTQ Youth” page for more information.
We all have a responsibility to ensure that students and staff are provided with welcoming, caring, respectful and safe learning environments that respect diversity and foster a sense of belonging.
Does this apply to all schools?
- Yes. All public, private, charter, and separate school boards in Alberta have been directed by the Minister of Education to develop policies that “specifically address the board’s responsibility as it relates to the LGBTQ community”.
- Minister Eggen requires these materials to be provided to him by March 31, 2016. The guidelines have been provided to assist school boards in developing their own policies that comply with legislation.
Is this a huge change?
- No it’s not. Most schools have been following these practices informally for years.
- The guidelines will assist ALL school boards to develop policies that will ensure a safe environment for all students.
Who decides who is transgender?
- Self-identification is the sole measure of an individual’s sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.
- Each person has the right to self-determination regarding gender identity, sexual orientation and gender expression. This means that the individual knows themselves best.
Can’t a boy just come to school, say he is a girl and change in the girls’ locker room?
- Schools are supporting transgender students in many ways and this is not an issue that just comes up in one day. It is a thoughtful process for the individual that involves many conversations with support networks such as family, friends, teachers and doctors.
- By the time a transgender student requires use of the bathroom or locker room that matches their gender identity staff will have already been made aware of the student’s needs. This is not something that happens in a single day, but an ongoing process of supporting transgender students.
- Transgender students are not just making this up to get away with something.
- The Guidelines do not erase existing safety protocols. They are not a “free pass” for others to behave disrespectfully. School staff continue to have a responsibility to ensure student safety. All students have a responsibility to ensure their conduct contributes to learning environments that are welcoming, caring, respectful and safe.
- If a youth comes to school – in this example a boy – and decides to use the girls’ locker room or washroom, the school staff and the parents would need to discuss the situation with the youth to determine if they in fact need support or if they were acting disrespectfully. In either situation, there would be procedures to address the youth accordingly.
- Bathroom and locker room safety is a legitimate concern which is why the Alberta Government has made these recommendations to reduce harm in such spaces. There is a need for all students to be able to access safer spaces to use bathrooms and locker rooms free from harassment and discrimination.
Why can’t a transgender person just use a non-gendered or unisex restroom?
- Transgender people should not be singled out or forced to use a particular restroom.
- It should be the decision of any individual if they prefer to use a non-gendered washroom.
Will boys now be allowed to play on girls’ teams at school?
- All students should have the opportunity to play on a sports team with their identity respected. Transgender girls should have the opportunity to play on girls’ teams. Transgender boys should have the opportunity to play on boys’ teams.
- Affirming the student by providing opportunities to play will have all of the positive benefits associated with sports in the areas of self-esteem, positive peer interactions and inclusion.
My kids’ school has uniforms and strict dress codes as part of its learning environment. Does our school now have to adapt our codes?
- No. Students should still follow the uniform and dress code requirements as appropriate to their gender identity.
Can schools still call people mother and father?
- Yes, but many already use other terms such as “parent 1 and parent 2” because of diverse family structures including single parents, foster families, stepfamilies, etc.
Do students need parental permission to join a GSA?
- Students are encouraged to participate in and start clubs within their schools.
- Students do not require parental permission to participate in or start a club.
- GSA (Gay-Straight-Alliance) clubs promote safe and inclusive learning environments for all students. Students who are heterosexual or cisgender are invited to participate in these clubs as a sign of safety and support for their peers.
- Learn more about GSAs.
What’s the difference between sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression?
- Sexual orientation refers to one’s attraction to another person.
- Gender identity refers to someone’s sense of self as “male/masculine,” “female/feminine,” or somewhere in between.
- Gender expression refers to a person’s appearance and behaviour.
- This visual guide created by the Calgary Sexual Health Centre helps clarify the distinctions:
What are gender neutral pronouns?
This is an excellent question and a great way to start creating safer spaces for transgender students! Commonly used pronouns:
|Feminine||She, her, hers||This is my friend Pat. She came to my house today. I borrowed a book from her. This book is hers.|
|Masculine||He, him, his||This is my friend Pat. He came to my house today. I borrowed a book from him. This book is his.|
|Gender Neutral||They, them, their||This is my friend Pat. They came to my house today. I borrowed a book from them. This book is theirs.|
Adapted from Schools in Transition- a Guide for Supporting Transgender Students in K-12 Schools https://www.genderspectrum.org/staging/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/Schools-in-Transition-2015.pdf