Fall 2017 Our Voice – SOGI Education in BCOctober 8, 2017
Our Voice – SEXUAL ORIENTATION AND GENDER IDENTITY (SOGI) EDUCATION IN BC
submitted by Jen Mezei, President of BCCPAC with Matt Carruthers, Provincial SOGI Lead for the Ministry of Education.
In our changing world, it is important that schools and communities reflect and celebrate the diversity found within them. All students and staff have the right to safe and welcoming environments where they can grow, develop and thrive as unique individuals. In January of 2016, the all-party Select Standing Committee on Children and Youth released its final report on Child and Youth Mental Health in B.C. This report identified sexual and gender minority youth as particularly vulnerable and stated that, “school districts should be required to support sexual and gender minority youth in schools through general and targeted programs to address child and youth mental health issues.”
In July 2016, Bill 27- Human Rights Code Amendment Act, 2016 was passed to include “gender identity or expression” among the protected grounds covered by the B.C. Human Rights Code. The B.C. Ministry of Education followed in September with its own directive asking that explicit references to sexual orientation and gender identity be added to the policies and codes of conduct in each school district.
The Ministry of Education has produced a SOGI Policy Guide that states that “policies and procedures that explicitly reference SOGI have been proven to reduce discrimination, suicidal ideation and suicide attempts for all students.”
The Ministry of Education SOGI Policy Guide also includes three goals for supporting diverse sexual orientations, gender identities and expressions:
- Visibility: The diversity of sexual orientations, gender identities and expressions are recognized and valued.
- Protection: The dignity of all people across the sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) spectra is intended to be preserved, as well as protected from harm.
- Inclusion: Equitable treatment and inclusion are a reality for people of all sexual orientations, gender identities and expressions.
Many parents, teachers and administrators have been working for years to build the knowledge, skills and tools they need to support LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning) students and families, however, many more are still unsure where to start. This lack of inclusive discussion contributes to recent research showing 64% of LGBTQ students across Canada still feel unsafe at school.
According to Egale Canada (2011), the two school spaces youth felt most unsafe in are change rooms and washrooms:
- 52% of trans youth
- 41% of LGBTQ youth
- and 28% of non-LGBTQ youth identified their school washrooms as unsafe.
As the issue of gender-neutral washrooms has emerged at the forefront of the political debate on transgender rights, we cannot lose sight of the fact that the heart of the issue is that we need to protect the dignity and safety of all students. Single-occupant accessible washrooms provide a safe, private facility for anyone who feels uncomfortable using gender-segregated multi-stall washrooms.
Parents at the BCCPAC AGM in May agreed, approving resolutions that BCCPAC advocate for at least one single occupant inclusive washroom and changeroom in each school and any associated capital funding required. (1)(2)
Inclusion and Diversity are at the core of BCCPAC’s guiding principles, and BCCPAC will continue to advocate for initiatives and processes that are designed not only to stop discrimination in our schools but also to provide opportunities to unlearn discrimination. (3)
In the coming year, BCCPAC is looking forward to working with our provincial partners towards creating school environments where all students not only feel safe, but embraced and empowered.
(1) Resolution 2017.2 (2) Resolution 2017.3 (3) Resolution 2016.