Sex and gender policy work underway for schools 

HSSS principal works to have policy this year

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While Ontario swears in its first lesbian premier the Sea to Sky School District is working to become the 20th district out of 60 in B.C. to establish a sexual orientation and gender identification policy.

Howe Sound Secondary School (HSSS) principal Dr. Christine Perkins is drafting the policy with support from the three main school system stakeholders. She reported that the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), the Howe Sound Teachers' Association and the association of principals and vice principals were all consulted before she started working on the wording of the policy. Each group has been promised it will get to see the draft once it is completed and before it goes to the district's board of trustees. Input from the three groups, said Perkins, will be incorporated into the draft before it is submitted to the board.

According to Perkins, the aim of the policy is to raise awareness of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues. She said it would put in place an understanding that there is an atmosphere of safety and respect at school for everyone in the education community, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity

A group at HSSS called the Diversity Club talks regularly about issues relating to equality for everyone. Perkins said the group formed last year as a gay-straight alliance then evolved to cover a broader range of social issues. In addition to dealing with issues around gender and sexual orientation the group tackles poverty, human rights and other topics.

"That group will review it as well as student reps. From that point it will go back to the board and then hopefully the board will grant approval at that time," said Perkins.

There isn't a solid timeline attached to the initiative but Perkins said she hopes to have the policy in place this year.

HSSS is leading the way in raising human rights awareness. In addition to having the Diversity Club, drama students at the school put on a stage production late last year called Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead. The play contained strong language and dealt with bullying, sexual orientation, drug abuse, peer pressure and suicide. Tickets for the play were sold selectively due to the nature of the themes in the production. After the play was performed in Squamish it was presented at the North Shore High School Drama Festival.

Perkins said she learned this week that the play won three festival awards, including the award for best production.

"It was great," Perkins said of the recognition for the drama students. "It has just been a really nice tag into the policy draft and everything else that is going on around those issues."

The principal at the largest school in the Sea to Sky district said she is excited at the level of support she's getting as she puts together the draft sexual orientation and gender identity policy.

"These are hot topics and things the kids are concerned about and people want protection," said Perkins. "There are lots of kids and lots of families, lots of employees and staff that need to know they're protected and honoured."

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