Winnipeg's largest school system is on its way to becoming safer for transgender students.
On Monday night, the Winnipeg School Division passed unanimously a motion to create a policy tailored to the needs of transgender students.
The motion — "That a safe and caring policy in support of transgender and gender nonconforming students be developed and referred to the Policy/Program Committee for review" — was tabled by board trustee Lisa Naylor on Oct. 5.
Naylor said the policy was crafted to ensure that transgender students are safe, included and respected in school, regardless of their gender identity or expression.
"I want us to be leaders in best practice in the province," Naylor said.
"I also want to ensure that safety and support for transgender students does not rest solely with the good will or the knowledge of a particular staff person on a particular day that may be facing a situation that is new to them. The good practices that exist need to be reflected in policy."
Naylor said educators often admit to being unclear about what language to use or how to best support transgender students in the classroom.
The ideal policy, then, would give educators clear guidelines to help direct them in their treatment of transgender students. Naylor said that would include suggestions related to school trips, bathroom and change room use, playing for school sports teams and language use.
"We also need to provide guidelines for working with unsupportive parents or parents who disagree about the appropriate response to their child's expressed gender identity," Naylor said, adding more than half of all transgender youth attempt to commit suicide before they turn 20.
"The Winnipeg School Division has has an opportunity to change this statistic," Naylor said.
"We can make the many hours [students] spend in school so much safer. We can send a message to the families of these children that they are welcome, supported and accommodated in our schools."
The division will now work to create a policy for transgender students.