LGBTQ policy too narrow, worries parents in Lethbridge School District 51

Parents in one school district have collected enough signatures to force a public meeting with the board to debate a draft policy on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Draft policy provides unequal protection for minority students and lacks parental rights, says Genny Steed

Parents in Lethbridge have gathered roughly 2,000 signatures on a petition to force a meeting with the school board regarding the draft policy on gender inclusion. (Getty Images)

Parents in one Alberta community will force a public meeting with their school board to voice their concerns regarding the district's draft LGBTQ policy Wednesday.

The parents, feeling shut out of the process, were able to compel a meeting after presenting the Lethbridge School District 51 with a petition of roughly 2,000 signatures, as per Alberta's School Act

Spokesperson Genny Steed said one of her primary concerns is the lack of explicit protections for parental rights. 

While the provincial guidelines suggest protections for student confidentiality, Steed wants her district to make it the responsibility of school staff to inform parents if their child is judged to be at risk to themselves or others. 

"If a child is in a situation where they are fearing some instability or insecurity ... a parent needs to be aware of their student's situation so that they can support, and aid, and help," she said.

"Especially in issues like this that are so complex and difficult sometimes and confusing sometimes for children, their success rate in helping them find a state of wellbeing and happiness and reducing suicide rates ... goes up so much higher when parents and communities are involved in that process," she said.

But others were quick to point out that in some situations, breaking student confidentiality may put children at risk.

Not inclusive enough

Steed said the Lethbridge draft policy is too narrow in that it only explicitly provides for the rights and needs of one particular minority.

She said the policy should extend to students with language barriers, eating disorders, refugee status, body confidence issues, and learning disabilities, for example. 

"Any minority group can be placed in an at-risk situation," she said.

"A policy which promotes anti-bullying and extra protection for those at risk is such a positive thing, and we're promoting that, but we're promoting it for all students," she added.

"This policy needs to be broad-based, instead of specific to a subsection of a minority within the population. It needs to be a policy that ensures those rights and those freedoms for all children."

With files from Alberta At Noon


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