Calgary

All but 1 Alberta school board submit LGBTQ policies by deadline

One of the province's 61 public school boards says it won't meet today's deadline to submit draft LGBTQ policies to the province, but Education Minister David Eggen says it won't face sanctions for failing to comply — at least not yet.​

Lethbridge School District No. 51 still finalizing its policy

Education Minister David Eggen speaks to reporters in Calgary on Thursday about the draft LGBTQ policies he has received, and has yet to receive, from school jurisdictions in Alberta. (CBC)

Just one of the province's 61 public school boards did not meet today's deadline to submit draft LGBTQ policies to the province, but Education Minister David Eggen says it won't face sanctions for failing to comply — at least not yet.​

Eggen said "there's a whole range of things" the province could do if boards outright refuse to outline their plans to protect and accommodate all students, including transgender students, in their schools, but so far none have done that.

The Lethbridge School District No. 51 has indicated it will not meet the March 31 deadline the minister set, but Eggen said the "spirit of collaboration" continues with that board.

"They are in discussions with my ministry officials here today," Eggen told reporters. "They've run into a couple of issues and they have indicated they will submit policies."

The education department has received policies from 60 school boards. In addition, 81 private schools and 13 charter schools have submitted their policies to the province.

"No school jurisdiction across the province has said they will not submit," he said.

Lethbridge still crafting policy

The Lethbridge school board is still working on its policy, after opting to form a six-person committee made up of one trustee, one administrator and four members of the public.

The decision to form the committee came at a packed public meeting on March 23 that drew more than 1,000 people.

More than 1,000 people attended a meeting in Lethbridge on March 23, where it was decided that more time was needed for a committee to craft a policy to conform with the province's LGBTQ guidelines for schools. (Lethbridge School District No. 51)

"The committee will meet over the next few weeks to craft its recommendations, with an April 19 deadline set for those recommendations to be presented to the board," the school district said in an online statement.

"The policy will then go the board's regular meeting on April 26 for second, and possibly third reading."

Palliser seeking legal advice

The Palliser board, which includes numerous religious schools between Calgary and Lethbridge, has sought an extension from the province on the March 31 deadline in order to talk with lawyers about its policy. However, a department official said that board's policy was received late Thursday afternoon.

The board voted on March 15 "to seek legal advice on incorporating parental and religious rights in the draft policy."

Some Catholic leaders in Alberta have said the province's guidelines violate religious beliefs and many parents have expressed reservations about the prospect of transgender students being allowed to use the washrooms or change rooms of their choice.

Eggen said the province will work with both the Lethbridge public board as it crafts its policies and will look to respect religious beliefs and parental concerns, as long as the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students are protected.

"Certainly protections around religion have to be respected and balanced with human rights," he said.

"But certainly human rights are not meant to be compromised, and will not be compromised by this government."

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