Alberta’s Ministry of Education issued guidelines on Jan. 13 to promote “learning environments that respect diverse sexual orientations, gender identities and gender expressions” in schools. Alberta schools are required to submit draft policies that reflect the document (Guidelines for Best Practices: Creating Learning Environments that Respect Diverse Sexual Orientations, Gender Identities and Gender Expressions) by March 31. According to the Edmonton Sun, the NDP Minister of Education David Eggen has been thinking about using his power to dissolve noncompliant school boards as a way of enforcing the guidelines.
In the document, teachers are urged to support the creation of Gay-Straight Alliances and to avoid referring students to gender conversion therapy. Students also “have the right to be addressed by their chosen name and to choose pronouns that align with their gender identity and/or gender expression,” even if they include “alternate pronouns” such as “ze,” “zir,” “hir,” or “Mx.” The student’s preferred name may be used on report cards or other documents issued by the school. Although the school will use the student’s legal name on documents such as transcripts, “Schools and school authorities have the ability to change student gender information.”
There are to be no “gender-exclusive” dress codes that imply “that a certain type of clothing, such as skirts, will be worn by one gender only.” Schools are advised to stop “segregating students by gender as much as possible,” and in cases where this is done, students should be able to choose whether to participate as a boy or girl. There are to be “non-gendered, single stall” washrooms and private spaces in change rooms available, but “emphasis should be on creating safe and inclusive spaces.”
The report thanks “those who contributed their experience and knowledge of diverse sexual orientations, gender identities and gender expressions” as well as Nova Scotia’s Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, which issued a similar policy in 2014.
Calgary Bishop Fred Henry has written two pastoral letters against the guidelines stating that they “show no evidence of consultation with or sensitivity to the Catholic community…This approach and directive smack of the madness of relativism and the forceful imposition of a particular narrow-minded anti-Catholic ideology.” He said the guidelines violate the Supreme Court’s Loyola decision, which found that a Catholic high school in Quebec had the right to teach the provincially mandated ethics and religion course from a Catholic perspective.
“It bullies parents and makes every single girl in the province of Alberta a guinea pig…for letting men into women’s bathrooms…” said Ezra Levant on his show on Rebel Media. “They’re not guidelines…” commented John Carpay, president of the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, on Levant’s program. “It will go into force and effect unless schools stand up.”
Sandra Jansen, the Progressive Conservative education critic, told the Globe and Mail that the guidelines were a good step, but boards must be made to follow them: “we’re going to have some parents who will be upset (and) there are going to be school boards that are not going to want to put a policy in place.”
The Wildrose Party has not commented on the guidelines.