School District 57 is looking for input on a new policy affirming the rights of LGBTQ students and families to equality and freedom from discrimination within the school system.

The draft policy defines a number of terms like Gay, Lesbian, Questioning, Two-Spirit and Sexual identity, and affirms rights and responsibilities of all students, families and employees in maintaining a safe and positive learning environment, free from discrimination.

“LGBTQ kids have particular challenges in small rural schools,” says Dan Kenkel, principal of Valemount Secondary School. “There is often no peer groups they can identify with, and coming out is a huge potential risk for them.”

He says this policy at least identifies their rights and recognizes their existence in our schools, which is a positive step forward.

The Northern BC LBGT Alliance applauds the school district’s efforts to make the district safer for anyone who identifies outside of the majority, and supports the move to have a stand-alone policy on the issue. The alliance does recommend some changes like including more words in the definition section, and is asking that training be proactive and provided to all staff, as well as a timeline for when resources on issues of gender and sexuality will be available. They have set up a form on their website to submit comments directly to the school district including their recommendations.

School District 57 is looking for feedback on the policy until Jan. 31, 2014. Comments can be submitted to Wendy De Marsh, Executive Assistant, by mail (School District No. 57, 2100 Ferry Ave, Prince George BC, V2L 4R5), email (wdemarsh@sd57.bc.ca) or fax (250-561-6820 or 250-561-6801). The full draft policy can be found on the school district’s website under Policy Manual.