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FAQ Safe and Caring Policy

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQ)
POLICY IGABB: SAFE AND CARING POLICY –TRANSGENDER AND GENDER DIVERSE STUDENTS AND STAFF

Intended audience: students, staff, families, and community

1.The New Safe and Caring Policy for Transgender and Gender Diverse Students and Staff – Why does Winnipeg School Division need it?

Policy IGABB is intended to support learning environments that respect diversity and to create welcoming and safe spaces, raise awareness, support and protect everyone, including transgender and gender diverse people, and others who have not yet identified.

Respect and safety are for everyone, in every school, however LGBTTQ people (particularly transgender individuals) typically experience higher rates of harassment, discrimination, suicide rates, as well as poor mental and physical health outcomes. [1]

Creating school environments that respect and affirm gender diversity will empower all students and employees. Gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation are protected rights under the Manitoba Human Rights Act.

2. Inclusive Approaches – What is Winnipeg School Division doing to welcome and support students/staff/families/community/volunteers?

Many initiatives and practices are currently in place throughout WSD and will continue to evolve and grow.

  • WSD Programming:
  • WSD Committees 2016:
    • Human Rights
    • Inclusion across the Rainbow (formerly known as Anti-homophobia Committee)
    • Mental Health
    • Safe Schools
    • Crisis Response
    • Physical Education and Healthy Lifestyles
    • Education for Sustainable Development
    • Indigenous Advisory Committee (reports to Board of Trustees Policy Committee)

  • Everyone Welcome posters in all WSD buildings
    • Use of inclusive language and minimizing gender-segregated activities
    • Gender inclusive washrooms/change rooms
    • Creation of Community Supports and Library Resources 2016
    • GSAs in WSD schools
      • GSA student forum in February 2017 (co-facilitating with Rainbow Resource Centre)
      • 2017 OUTShine International LGBTQI2S Youth and Ally Summit in Windsor, ON
  • Community partnerships and collaboration with Rainbow Resource Centre, Gender Dysphoria Assessment and Action for Youth Clinic, Klinic Community Health Centre, and other community agencies

3. Training/Professional Development – What will take place to support this policy?

All WSD staff have a professional, ethical and legal responsibility to ensure that all classrooms and schools are safe, caring and inclusive environments for all students regardless of differences.

Mandatory employee anti-homophobia/human rights training has been required for all permanent WSD employees since 1999.  Since development of the training, it has greatly evolved including a recent name change to "Inclusion across the Rainbow Mandatory training", and will now include Safe and Caring policy training.

Per WSD policy and applicable legislation, all permanent employees are required to complete the training. For new staff the completion of a mandatory workshop will be in effect. For staff who have taken the mandatory training prior to 2012, an online platform/training will be available for training renewal.  Targeted professional learning will be provided that uses valid research, shares best practices, reflects the knowledge and lived experience of trans people, and creates mutual respect and understanding.

LGBTTQ, gender identity and gender diversity will be the topic of discussion at staff meetings. Workshops, information sessions, and support will be available for all students, staff, parents/guardians and community. 

4. Accommodations for Transgender and Gender Diverse Students and Staff – What will be provided?

Specifics on how to make accommodations work for students or staff must be discussed and resolved on a case by case basis in coordination with that individual, school staff and parents/guardians if applicable.  Supports are individualized to best meet the needs of the student or staff member, and may include, but are not limited to:

  • Listening to and maintaining trust and confidentiality
  • Determining what the plan of action is
  • Discussing their preferred name and pronoun
  • Affirming who they have, or who they have not disclosed to
  • Developing coping strategies and resources
  • Identifying a trusted adult ally in the school

5. Privacy and Confidentiality – What information will be shared when a student makes a disclosure?

WSD staff are always encouraged to be in open communication with parents/guardians about the learning and well-being of their children. WSD believes that learning and development are enhanced by parents/guardians and school staff communicating and working together.

Students are entitled to the protection of their personal information, including their gender identity and sexual orientation. Some LGBTTQ students are not open about their sexual or gender identity. Given the sensitivity related to one's gender identity and sexual orientation, if a student discloses that they are LGBTTQ to a staff member, that information will be held in confidence and not shared without the student's permission.

6. Student Records/Forms – What changes will we see?

Current WSD school and division forms ask students/parents and employees to identify as male or female. Moving forward, a third option will become available on forms.  For data reporting practices the Province states that sex is one of the mandatory reporting fields.

7. Communication with Parents – How do schools and administration respond to students whose parents may not support/accept their child's gender identity?

Schools can play a critical role in alleviating distress caused by family rejection. The school environment may be the only place a transgender or gender diverse student or employee feels comfortable being themselves.

Often the LGBTTQ student will seek out a staff member/trusted ally for support. When the student initiates the process, the staff member should ask whether the student's family is accepting of their gender identity and/or gender expression. The student and trusted ally will determine how to proceed through a collaborative process while accommodating and balancing the student's needs.

Where possible, the goal should be to support the student's family in accepting their child's gender identity and seek opportunities to foster a better relationship between the student and family. Schools can assist the process of acceptance in several ways including arranging a safe space for the student to disclose their gender identity to their parents, providing counseling services for the family or connecting them with community supports such as the Rainbow Resource Centre.

8. Preferred Name and Affirming Pronoun – What names can be use?

For the purpose of accommodating and supporting the diverse needs of students and staff in a school, an individual's self-identification is the sole measure of their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. Some individuals may or may not feel included in the use of pronouns "he" or "she" and prefer alternate pronouns which will be respected, such as "ze," "zir," "hir," or "they." In addition, school-based communications recognize that not all families include a mother and a father, and therefore the use of more inclusive terms such as parents or guardians, will consider all types of family structures, such as single parents, foster families, LGBTTQ parents and step-families. 

9. Legal and Preferred Name – When are they used?

When students and their parents/guardians (if applicable) request a name and pronoun change, the information is entered in the student information system to be used on school documentation. The preferred student name and affirming pronoun is included on class lists, timetables, student files, identification cards, IEPs, and the comment section of report cards (unless directed otherwise). For documentation purposes and ease of student accessibility to post-secondary institutions, the legal name cannot be changed in the Official Student Record unless the student or employee name is legally changed with Manitoba Vital Statistics. Thus, at the present time, the student's legal name and sex as registered with Vital Statistics of Manitoba shall be recorded on transcripts, the cover of the provincial report cards, diplomas, credentials and Manitoba provincial records and provincial assessments.

10. Incidents of Homophobic, Biphobic, Transphobic Harassment – How will these be handled/resolved?

Winnipeg School Division sets a learning environment that is welcoming, caring, respectful and safe for all students and staff. Transgender and gender diverse people are marginalized more often through discrimination and/or harassment. Per Policy GCPDA – Harassment Prevention, all individuals working, studying, volunteering in or visiting WSD facilities are encouraged to report all instances of harassment. All staff who witness disputes or conflicts are responsible for handling and resolving the matter and reporting to the Principal as required. Responding to the conflict is critical, it is better to say something than nothing at all.

When disputes or conflicts occur, they are to be resolved in a manner that involves the trans or gender diverse student and an adult ally and may include another member from the Student Support team (principal, teacher, guidance counsellor, school resource officer, etc.) in the decision making process to maximize inclusiveness and address the best interests of the individual.  The resolution should be within the group and the victim should not be segregated throughout the process.

Regardless of equity or spot on the rainbow, if students have one person or a team they can rely on for strength based support and resiliency, it will make a positive impact and difference in their lives. The most effective way to reduce bullying, harassment and discrimination is to increase a school-wide culture of inclusion and respect for diversity.

'How Do I Handle Harassment in 3 Minutes?' [2]

1) Stop the harassment.

  • Interrupt the hurtful behaviour.
  • Make sure everyone can hear you.
  • Do not pull the student aside for a confidential discussion, stopping the harassment should be public.

2) Identify the harassment. Name the hurtful behaviour

  • Label the behaviour. "You just put someone down based on perceived (sex, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, health status, etc.)
  • Put the spotlight on the behaviour. Do NOT say anything to imply that the person being harassed belongs to the group named. Everyone needs to understand that what was said or done is unacceptable.

3) Explain why the behaviour is hurtful and prohibited.

  • Identify the offence and its consequences: "homophobic name calling is hurtful to everyone who hears it. At this school, we respect everyone and are responsible for the impact of our words/behaviours."

4) Ask for a change in future behaviour.

  • Personalize the response: "Chris, please think about what you say. This language is not what we would have expected from you."
  • Quietly, check in with and reassure the person who was harassed, "Are you okay? Do you want to talk with me or someone else? Please let me or someone else know if this happens again, so further action can be taken. Everyone should feel safe and be safe here. What happened was totally unacceptable, and you are very important to all of us."

11. Washrooms/Change Rooms – Which students will have access to which washrooms and change rooms?

Transgender and gender diverse students and staff have the right to access the washroom and change room that corresponds to their gender identity. The decision to do so takes place in the context of a thoughtful and thorough process that includes discussions with the student, staff and parents/guardians (if applicable).

Note: being uncomfortable is not the same as being unsafe and schools have the responsibility to ensure the safety of all students. If a student expresses discomfort with changing or showering around other students (transgender or not) they will be offered alternative accommodations.

When offered an option, many transgender students choose to access an individual washroom to use the facilities and to change for physical education classes.  It is the transgender individuals who are most at risk of harassment or harm when utilizing either the boys or girls washrooms, not the other students.

12. Gender Inclusive Washrooms – Do all schools and WSD buildings have them?

Per Board item (September 2014) the WSD plan of action for gender inclusive washrooms is a multi-year renovation program to provide gender inclusive facilities in all WSD buildings.

  • The first phase is currently underway and will ensure that all gender facilities are developed in all high schools. All high schools will be completed by 2016/2017.
  • The second phase, estimated to take an additional two years, will focus on junior high facilities.  
  • The final phase will address remaining WSD buildings and be undertaken over a five year period.

In the meantime, all WSD schools are able to provide access to a washroom for student's or staff who are seeking an all gender facility. This type of accommodation is typically provided through the re-purposing of existing washroom facilities to gender inclusive.

13. Fieldtrips/Overnight Stays – How are they handled?

WSD provides a variety of overnight trips for students (outdoor school camps, band trips, cultural traveling experiences, etc.) The sleeping accommodations vary greatly (dorms, hotels, camps, etc.) When a transgender or gender non-conforming student is participating in an overnight trip, consideration is given to the safety and to protect the privacy of all students involved.  Many factors are considered regarding the accommodations including the needs and wishes of the student and their parents/guardians (if applicable), the facilities where students are sleeping, the supervision provided, amongst other factors. Alternative accommodation arrangements for overnight trips will be based on a safe and respectful environment and will be made to ensure equal opportunity for all students.

14. Physical Education and Sports – How will access to participation be handled?

Students are currently permitted to participate in sex-segregated recreational or competitive athletic actives in accordance with their self-declared gender identity. All students, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression have the right to participate in all curricular and extra-curricular activities in a safe, inclusive and respectful environment.  Competitive co-ed teams are not available. Thus, any student may participate in gender segregated competitive sport teams in accordance with their gender identity and skill level.

Transgender and gender diverse students and their parents/guardians (if applicable), are typically involved in conversations with school staff about access to physical education classes and sports teams.  Careful consideration is given to what team the student plays on, and what information is shared with the coach and other team members. A male student cannot simply "declare" he is female and sign up for a girls' sports team.

15. Dress Codes – What impact does this policy have on student attire?

Dress codes must be held up to the same standard for all students. Expectations related to student dress will not be gender specific. All students are expected to maintain standards related to appropriate attire (e.g., no offensive words or visuals on clothing, clothing that appropriately covers the body, etc.).

16. LGBTTQ Topics – Are they part of the Manitoba curriculum?

With the implementation of the Safe and Caring policy for transgender and gender diverse students and staff, WSD will continue to follow the subject area curricula as prescribed by Manitoba Education and Training. While not specifically addressed as discrete learning outcomes, LGBTTQ issues should be part of classroom discussions and units of study. For example, LGBTTQ novels, short stories, poetry or characters can be included in language arts classes. Math problems can use neutral language and names such as Terri and Sam. In psychology class, students can explore the various nature vs nurture debates that surround homosexuality and heterosexuality. In elementary grades, LGBTTQ families can be included when teachers discuss family backgrounds, structures and relationships.

The newly created WSD library resource collection which includes fiction and nonfiction resources appropriate for classroom use for all grade levels includes positive and inclusive messaging on topics such as diversity, friendship, acceptance, identity, amongst others.

17. LGBTTQ Issues – What if parents feel these issues are too controversial?

In some communities, these issues may indeed be viewed as controversial. Supporting LGBTTQ students are educational issues; they are not about religious beliefs, moral views or sexual practice. The real issue for any school to address is the creation of an educational environment that is free from prejudice, discrimination, homophobia and heterosexism.

Research shows that sexual identity is established in early childhood (Ryan and Futterman 1998). Many students have a sense of their sexual orientation and gender identity as early as grade 1. As a result, it is important that elementary teachers become aware of this developmental factor and provide the necessary resources and support to ensure that all students develop a positive self-identity. Furthermore, many students come from LGBTTQ families or have LGBTTQ siblings. It is important for these students to feel that their families and identities are a valued and visible part of the school and classroom community.

Adapted from sources included in the Public Health Agency of Canada - Questions and Answers: Sexual Orientation in Schools, http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/std-mts/rp/so-os/res-eng.php.


[1] The Manitoba Teacher's Society. (2016). The Every Teacher Project: On LGBTQ – Inclusive Education in Canada's K-12 Schools Final Report. Written by: Catherine Taylor, Tracy Peter, Christopher Campbell, Elizabeth Meyer, Janice Ristock & Donn Short. Manitoba Teacher's Society: Winnipeg.

[2] N. Korsunsky. (Feb 4, 2016). Handout provided at WSD Anti-Homophobia Workshop. Adapted from Toronto District School Board & GLSEN/Colorado.

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