Hamilton

Transgender and queer HWDSB students were mistakenly 'outed' due to school's technology

The Microsoft Teams platform used during online classes showed students' legal names.

The platform used during online classes showed students' legal names

Some transgender and queer students in Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board have been inadvertently outed in front of their peers due to the board's learning systems. (Dan Taekema/CBC)

Some transgender and queer students in the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB) were "outed" in front of their peers this fall because of the technology used by the school during the COVID-19 pandemic, says an HWDSB student trustee.

In a Monday night board meeting, Ethan Hesler said the legal names of students appeared on the Microsoft Teams platform during classes, even though some students use different names now.

He told CBC News on Tuesday that it presented a potentially "dangerous situation" for transgender and queer students.

Sharon Stephanian, superintendent of equity and well-being, told trustees that this is an "extremely important" issue.

"We are completely apologetic that in the transition of systems, we know there were instances where that unfortunately happened," she said.

The board has been working with IT and the social worker assigned to processes, procedures and specifics related to LGBTQ students to prevent the issue from happening again.

Bill Torrens, superintendent of student achievement and programs, said the school is reviewing details in the student information systems to ensure someone is not mistakenly outed.

It's unclear how many students have been affected and why there was no word of this issue before.

This comes as the school has been evaluating bullying in schools and recently released a student survey about how bullying has changed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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