Tag Archives: Edmonton Public School Board

Putting protection of LGBTQ students and staff back on the agenda at Alberta school boards meeting

Amid allegations of financial misspending and a lack of transparency, representatives from sixty-one elected Public, Catholic, and Francophone school boards from across Alberta will gather at the fall general meeting of the Alberta School Boards Association on November 15, 16 and 17 in Edmonton.

Michael Janz Edmonton

Michael Janz

School board representatives could face another round of debate about protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer students and staff. The Edmonton Public School Board will introduce a motion at the meeting for the ASBA to create a policy that protects all students, staff and families who identify as sexual or gender minorities.

I think tone at the top is very important, and it is important for the Alberta School Boards Association to take an active stance against the bullying and marginalization of lesbian, gay bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning students. I think this will send a very important signal across school boards that we do support inclusion, we do want to support our students,” EPSB chairperson Michael Janz told the Edmonton Sun.

The motion has been proposed as emergent by EPSB and will be introduced on the first full day of the meeting. Delegates will be asked whether it should be added to agenda and debated at the meeting.

Debate at the ASBA’s general meeting in 2012 attracted national attention when 62 percent of the delegates voted down a proposal to protect gay students and staff from discrimination, similar to a policy passed by EPSB in 2011.

David Eggen

David Eggen

One trustee at the 2012 meeting from the Pembina Hills School Division suggested if “children with a gay tendency” could hide their gayness it would be “for their own benefit.” The trustee later apologized but not before his comment became national news.

The debate around legislating the creation of Gay-Straight Alliances in Alberta schools became a major political issue in the final months of 2014 and created major rifts between social conservatives and moderate conservatives in the Wildrose and Progressive Conservative parties.

Recent debates at the Edmonton Catholic School District about creating safe environments for transgender students have degenerated into public scenes of crying and shouting. “I expect a higher standard from all elected officials here, generally in Alberta, and specifically with Edmonton Catholic,” Education Minister David Eggen said following the debates.

Mr. Eggen has directed all Alberta school boards to have a policy supporting LGBTQ students in place by March 31, 2016.  It has been reported that only 13 out of 61 school boards currently have stand alone policies protecting rights of LGBTQ students and staff.

The result of the debate about whether to adopt a policy protecting all students, staff and families who identify as sexual or gender minorities will likely set the tone for an important breakfast event being held for trustees and MLAs on the final day of the meeting. Twenty-eight NDP, Wildrose, Progressive Conservative and Liberal MLAs are scheduled to attend the breakfast, including cabinet ministers Brian Mason, Joe Ceci, and Oneil Carlier. Mr. Eggen scheduled to deliver an address at the breakfast.

What the Education Minister has to say in his address will likely depend on if Alberta’s elected school trustees choose to rise above the closed mindedness and ignorance that has dominated these debates in past years. Protecting students and staff is not optional.

Here is the motion that the EPSB plans to introduce:

That the Alberta School Boards Association support its members school boards in establishing and maintaining welcoming, inclusive, safe and healthy learning and working environments for all members of the school community, including sexual orientation and genders minority students, staff and families. This includes provision of support with policy development and related resources.

EPSB rationale for the motion:

  • Issues with regard to publicly funded education and supporting Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity students, staff and families have been in the news this year. The ASBA has been silent on these issues, both in policy and presence. It is proposed by the Committee that we take a second attempt at moving forward the 2012 Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Policy to the ASBA.
  • The Committee believes it is important for the ASBA to clearly take a policy position in support of students, staff, and families in alignment with provincial legislation and our Strategic Plan outcome to provide welcoming, inclusive, safe caring and healthy learning and work environments. Research has shown that sexual minority youth experience more bullying, harassment, alienation, and suicide ideation than do their heterosexual peers and; therefore, boards are encouraged to counter pervasive cultural biases against sexual minorities through proactive and specific policy and regulation to ensure that all sexual orientation and gender identity minority individuals are welcomed, respected, accepted and supported in all of their schools.

Previous ASBA fall general meetings have been webcast. I will post a link to the website once I have confirmed this meeting will be live streamed online.

Building a replacement school in Greater Highlands?

The crowd at Highlands School

The crowd at Highlands School

When was the last time we talked about opening a new school in the urban core, rather than closing one down?

Packed into the gym of the hundred year-old Highlands Junior High School, hundreds of school and community members heard about plans to replace three already existing schools with a brand new Kindergarden to Grade 9 school.

The provincial government has presented the Edmonton Public School Board with a funding opportunity to build a replacement school for a mature community in Edmonton’s urban core.

The school board has identified the Greater Highlands Area, the Greater Lawton Area and the Greater Westmount Area as potential areas for the new school. Only one of these areas will be selected for the first, of what could be many, replacement school.

While there remains a number of unanswered questions about the project and how it will impact the community, I am generally excited about the prospect of a new school being built in the community I call home.

While the currently existing schools – Highlands, Mount Royal and Montrose – are important community hubs, they are also old buildings facing the challenges of low-enrolment and growing maintenance costs.

Capacity and Enrolment: Capacity represents the maximum number of students that can attend the school. Enrolment represents how many students are currently attending the school.

Capacity and Enrolment: Capacity represents the maximum number of students that can attend the school. Enrolment represents how many students are currently attending the school.

If the Greater Highlands area is chosen as the spot for the new school, there is also an opportunity to coordinate with the reconstruction of 112th Avenue and 50th Street and the construction of the new Highlands Branch of the Edmonton Public Library.

Of course, it is important that a new school be accessible to all members of the Greater Highlands community, including the more ethnically diverse community living north of 118 Avenue in Montrose area. A new school in this area must recognize and be inclusive of our city’s fast-growing urban aboriginal population.

Improvements to schools are an important part of revitalizing mature neighbourhoods, as they will help attract and retain young families who want to live core communities. It’s part of building a smart city.

I look forward to further participating in the consultation process and am grateful that school board has opened up this process to the community.

The Public School Board has presented out their community consultation timeline for the project:

April 22-24, 2014 – First Public Meetings
May 20-22, 2014 – Second Public Meetings
June 19, 2014 – Final Public Meetings
June 24, 2014 – Site selection for replacement school will be presented to the School Board to Trustees

Update: This website is currently experiencing some technical difficulties with the hosting service that are preventing comments from being posted. I hope to have this resolved by the end of the day. In the meantime, please feel free to leave your comments on the daveberta.ca page on Facebook. Thanks for your patience. – Dave