Calgary

CBE approves 1st reading of LGBTQ policies

Calgary Board of Education trustees unanimously approved the first reading of its LGBTQ policies at a sparsely-attended meeting Tuesday morning.

Few parents attend meeting with one saying there was little advance notice

Few parents attended the CBE board meeting on Tuesday. (Evelyne Asselin/CBC)

Calgary Board of Education trustees unanimously approved the first reading of its LGBTQ policies at a sparsely-attended meeting Tuesday morning.

The policies, which amend the board's operational expectations policies, will bring many Calgary schools in line with the LGBTQ guidelines issued by the province in January.

The 21-page document, introduced by Education Minister David Eggen, states students have the right to self-identify their gender and be addressed by the name and pronoun of their choice.

Eggen said he wants evidence of policies that provide a supportive, caring, respectful and safe learning environment for each student, as required under Alberta law. 

Bill 10 also governs students' rights to form GSAs, or gay-straight alliances, in schools.

Eggen gave school boards until the end of March to submit their policies.

The policy amendments heard in Tuesday's meeting do not lay out specifics, but clarify the importance of respecting and welcoming diversity.

"Today was an opportunity for the board to review its policies in terms of creating a safe and caring learning environment for not only our students but also our staff," said board chair Joy Bowen-Eyre. 

"We believe that it was important to strengthen the language and to make it crisp and clear so that everybody within our system and the public had an understanding of what it meant for us when we talked about having a sense of belonging."

Few parents attended the meeting, which began at 10:30 a.m.

Parent Shane Gross says he's concerned about the implications of the CBE's new LGBTQ policies. (Evelyne Asselin/CBC)

Shane Gross said he felt there wasn't enough notice about the meeting for parents to be able to attend and put forward questions. 

"I thought because this issue is fairly polarizing, you'd think that more people would be showing up," said Gross. He said he expected more detail about the implications of the provincial guidelines. 

"I can tell you there's lots of people who are really worried, and really nervous about what could happen."

Gross said the CBE should have held more public consultation about the policies.

"There's lots to talk about on this issue. I just don't see any real meaningful discussion on it," he said. "It seemed like a bit of a rubber stamp. I was expecting there to be some public input."

Bowen-Eyre said parents, students and staff have been largely supportive of the board. 

The second reading of the board of trustees' LGBTQ policies will be heard March 29.

With files from Evelyne Asselin

now