Brandon School Division looking at student's recommendations to make schools more LGBT inclusive

Brandon School Division looking at student's recommendations to make schools more LGBT inclusive

The Brandon School Division says it hopes to implement some ideas brought forward by a Grade 11 student to make its schools more supportive and inclusive for LGBT students.

Navan Forsythe made a presentation to the division's board of trustees on March 20, offering a variety of recommendations from ally training to more gender-inclusive washrooms, based on concerns he's observed and heard from friends in Manitoba and beyond.

Forsythe said he has received positive feedback from the board as well as from his school's principal.

"The school board was very supportive — much more supportive than I had originally anticipated," he told CBC's Radio Noon program in an interview that aired Wednesday.

Brandon School Division board chair Kevan Sumner said trustees were impressed by Forsythe's presentation.

"I wish that more students had the courage to come before us to discuss issues of importance such as this. I know that Navan took several months to consider his presentation, during which time he spoke to his fellow students and school administrators, as well as myself. He covered a number of very important topics," Sumner wrote in a statement.

Forsythe said his top recommendation is ally training for teachers, counsellors and other school staff on how to work with LGBT students who are in crisis.

"If a student who is depressed or who is suicidal comes to their school counsellor and that counsellor is not supportive of their identity and does not know how to handle the problems that are more unique to the LGBT community, that can be very dangerous for that student," he said.

Another major issue within Brandon-area schools, Forsythe said, is the need for more gender-neutral washrooms. He said while several schools have indicated they are accommodating LGBT students in this regard, there is room for improvement.

He cited as an example one student's experience with an inclusive washroom at one school.

"There is only one stall, and when that stall was closed for the day, that student had to actually go home to go to the bathroom because they were that worried about the repercussions of going into one of the other bathrooms available to them," he said.

Sumner said the board referred Forsythe's presentation to the senior administrators, who are preparing a formal report covering some of the points that were raised. Sumner said he hopes to see their report before the end of the school year.

"I expect that there may be some recommendations that are relatively easy to implement, but others may have budget implications or other logistical considerations that could impede any sort of immediate action," he wrote.