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School board waiting for response on gender identity policy

Wolf Creek Public Schools remains waiting for word whether their gender identity policy is acceptable.

Even though it was one of the few school boards the provincial government selected to provide the blueprint, Wolf Creek Public Schools remains waiting for word whether their gender identity policy is acceptable.

During the board of trustees meeting back on March 3, assistant superintendent of inclusive services Amber Hester spoke to trustees regarding the topic and what minor tweaks have been made to the original policy, which has now been submitted to Alberta Education.

Wolf Creek was one of 15 school divisions the government outlined to the rest of the province as having a policy that could be used as a model on which to follow to meet the province’s March 31 deadline for having one in place.

Hester explained to trustees that after the division’s policy was first developed, back in May 2015, there has been a lot more consultation with the government and she believes they are now close to what Alberta Education wants covered in such a policy.

Now, the next step not only involves waiting for the government to get back to them, but identifying and communicating with various other support agencies and stakeholders about how to implement the policy and continue to make all Wolf Creek schools a safe and caring place for all students.

Hester stated the idea is to get community members - parents, social and health agencies along with the public - engaged in discussions on how best to work together to ensure there is a strategy and support for those students that feel they need it.

“How can we work together and collaborate on things like training staff? The hope is also to access services through Alberta Health Services and provide a package to the ATA (Alberta Teachers Association) to assist them as administration will not be able to do this alone,” she told trustees during the presentation.

One of the issues that a lot of parents and the public seem to be focusing on in the policy is how to deal with students using the bathroom they identify with and Hester tackled that head-on by explaining that a lot of education is how they plan on meeting this challenge in addition to going over specific school situations with principals and staff members.

“We will be going over this (situation) soon with them, but the key thing is that we support the students and answer any questions that they or parents are wondering about,” she said.

“We need a plan, but right now these are baby steps we are taking. This is just the beginning of a much larger focus.”

Acting superintendent Jayson Lovell added the update made to the policy was very minor and they are prepared to make any changes should Alberta Education recommend them.

“We understand there is some opposition to certain portions of the policy, but more work is needed and that’s why we have held back on making this operational until September,” Lovell said in a phone interview.

“There are lots of components to this, including engagement with stakeholders and that’s where the strategy tools will help assist us. It’s going to take a couple of months to build the plan with administration working more intensely to have the comprehensive strategic approach in place by September.”