Pull funding for school boards defying LGBTQ policy: Liberal leader
'We'll see how they actually function,' says Education Minister David Eggen
The Alberta government should withdraw funding from school boards that refuse to implement the province's new LGBTQ policy, says Liberal Leader David Swann.
He said Education Minister David Eggen should also consider removing school charters or dissolving recalcitrant boards that refuse to follow the policy.
"The legislation, supported by every provincial party, and the policies set forth by the government, were created to provide kids with the right to be who they are," said Swann. "No organization, especially a school, should have the ability to take those rights away."
Swann's comments came one day after Pastor Brian Coldwell, board chair of the Independent Baptist Christian Education Society, told CBC News that the LGBTQ policy won't be implemented at two Parkland County Schools.
"This is precisely the situation where LGBTQ protections are most needed," Swann said in a statement. "There is an antagonistic school board and a strong bias against the LGBTQ community."
"This type of 'therapy' is widely opposed by experts in psychology, psychiatry and social work," said Swann. "There is no place for it in Alberta's schools."
Coldwell's comments on Monday set off a firestorm on social media.
"Do you know how many children have suffered? Have taken their own lives because of this type of 'counselling,' " tweeted Marni Panas, a transgender advocate.
"Horrible and heart-wrenching," wrote KasmiraJ. "Polar opposite of how Christians should love."
Some also echoed Swann's call to withdraw the board's funding. The Independent Baptist Christian Education Society, which runs two private schools in rural Parkland County, receives between 60 and 70 per cent of its instructional funding from the province.
But there were also messages of support for the pastor.
"I support this person's right to fight for the religious freedoms we are supposed to still have in this country," tweeted jselinger50.
Failing grade for Greater St. Albert Catholic Schools' policy
While that debate continued, Public Interest Alberta released its assessment Tuesday of sexual orientation and gender identity policies submitted by four Alberta schools.
The evaluation graded school board policies based on whether they complied with provincial legislation, supported gay-straight alliances, and addressed the needs of LGBTQ students, staff and families.
The assessment gave an A grade to the policy submitted by the Red Deer Public School Board, which it said "should serve as a model for others to follow."
"It's clear, it's detailed, it's unequivocal in its support and responsibilities towards — not only LGBTQ students, but staff and families," said Kris Wells, an assistant professor at the University of Alberta, who worked with Public Interest Alberta.
Growing calls to legislate LGBTQ rights
"If school boards or private schools refuse to provide the supports and the protections that are necessary, then we think it may be necessary for the minister of education to introduce legislation to ensure that all students in the province have those supports and protections," said Joel French, executive director of Public Interest Alberta.
In March, Eggen ordered school boards to submit policies to deal with LGBTQ issues. The directive came amidst fierce debate across the province after the story became public of a mother's battle with the Edmonton Catholic school board to allow her seven-year old transgender daughter to use the female washroom.
But the mother, who CBC News has agreed not to identify to protect her daughter's privacy, said the defiance by Coldwell's board is another example that shows why guidelines need to be written into law.
"It's a clear slap in the minister's face," she said. "Here the minister put out guidelines, which shouldn't have been guidelines. Guidelines is an indication that there's an option to implement this or not."
Despite growing calls to act, Eggen once again refused to say what, if any, consequences non-compliant boards will face.
"We'll see how they actually function," said Eggen. "Certainly it's important to follow the law, and the law is very clear.
"Certainly, my responsibility is to ensure that laws are upheld and that's what I do."
with files from Roberta Bell