With Finance Minister Joe Ceci scheduled to table Alberta’s budget in the Legislative Assembly on Thursday, March 22, there was plenty of activity today by advocates wanting to see big changes in provincial education.
Public schools should be the priority, says Janz
Edmonton Public School Board Trustee Michael Janz is calling on the province to prioritize the construction of public schools in new communities. Janz will introduce a motion encourging the board seek a commitment from the provincial government that ‘the first school built in any community or neighbourhood be a public school or a shared public, separate, and/or francophone board facility.’
As of September 2017, around 100,000 students were enrolled in Edmonton’s public school system, a 3.4 percent increase from the previous year. According to Janz, the board’s draft projections indicate an increase of an additional 3,000 students in the 2018-2019 school year.
The board is currently debating its Three Year Capital Plan.
3 out of 4 taxpayers say no money for elite and exclusive private schools
Some school boards falling behind on protecting sexual minority students
Public Interest Alberta has released a new report on four school boards’ policies and procedures on sexual and gender minorities that points to the need for changes to protect students and their rights. “Policies should be clear, comprehensive and unequivocal in their support for LGBTQ students, staff and families. Students shouldn’t need a lawyer to make sense of their school policies, or to find out if they’re fully protected or not,” University of Alberta assistant professor Kristopher Wells told Metro Edmonton.
Photo: Edmonton Public School Trustee Michael Janz
An Alberta Dad has thrown-down and rapped a response to last week’s Alberta Mom rap video bashing the province’s new guidelines for accommodating transgender students in Alberta schools. The original video was offensive and deserved a response but let’s hope that rap-battle’s don’t become a common occurrence among amateur-rapper parents in our province.
The deadline is fast approaching for Alberta’s publicly-funded school boards to comply with a directive from Education Minister David Eggen to create LGBTQ policies in line with provincial guidelines by March 31, 2016. With some school boards openly defying the province, what actions will the government take if some school boards refuse to comply with the guidelines?
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.
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.