Okanagan Skaha school board drafts gender identity policy

Consultation will begin soon on a new policy for the Okanagan Skaha school district on sexual orientation/gender identity.

Jozef Varga paints the red stripe of a rainbow crosswalk in front of Penticton Secondary.

Consultation will begin soon on a new policy for the Okanagan Skaha school district on sexual orientation/gender identity.

While the policy was a ministerial order in September that explicit references to sexual orientation and gender identity be added to the policies that school districts and independent schools are required to have in place, Okanagan Skaha already had plans to move forward last school year.

“The creation of this policy is a little bit backwards in probably how we wanted to do it. We probably would have preferred to take the draft and meet with all our partner groups before we brought it to the board but because of the timelines that were stipulated by the government we have got a draft policy and we will send it out to the groups,” said superintendent Wendy Hyer.

In June, the school board met with students at Pen High who wanted to paint rainbow sidewalks at the school. The students said they were deeply affected by a targeted shooting of LGBTQ patrons in an Orlando nightclub, that killed 49 people, and wanted the painted sidewalks to be a symbol of respect and tolerance at the school.

Read more: Rainbow crosswalks for Penticton Secondary School

“This was prior to the minister making the order, but we said there is something we can do right now for you because they were really hurting, as everybody was,” said school board chair Linda Van Alphen, who added they also promised the students at that time they would bring a policy forward.

Read more: Tragedy inspires school project

Consultation of the draft policy was conducted with a neighbouring school district that already has a policy in place, board members, district staff and counsellors.

“We took what we thought were the pieces that shaped a policy that is focused on equity and inclusiveness in the educational community, not only for the students but staff and with a focus on making sure everyone is going to school or to work and participating in the community that is safe for everybody.”

The policy includes the right to be addressed by a name and pronoun that corresponds to their gender identity, right to participate in sports and other activities in a manner that respects and embraces their gender identity, right to access washrooms and change rooms based on gender identity among other regulations and procedures.

Read full draft policy here

Students, staff, administrators and DPAC members will have an opportunity to review the policy and suggest changes in January before it returns to the board in February for approval.