School board receives gender identity guideline

The Near North District School Board has received guidelines regarding gender identity and expression to ensure “a safe and respectful place at school” for students and staff alike.

The board outlined in a recent release that “the guideline recognizes there are gender-diverse people who may request accommodation on the part of a school and/or board,” in respect to how students are addressed in school records, washroom access, dress codes, and sports and extracurricular activities.

The guideline follows the Ontario Human Rights Code, which outlines “equal rights and opportunities and freedom from discrimination for all persons in the delivery of educational services,” the board noted.

See: School board creates ‘proactive plans’ to improve literacy

Other guidelines have been adopted by the board, including its 2009 Human Rights administrative guideline and another detailing Religious Accommodation in 2010. In 2019, the board adopted guidelines for Equity and Inclusive Education and another for Supporting Inclusive, Safe and Caring Spaces for Diverse Gender Identities.

However, this new guideline “deals specifically with the enumerated grounds of gender, gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation,” the board explained.

Accommodating all students and staff is a primary goal of the guideline to ensure “the right to be treated with dignity and respect,” and foster an “inclusive environment.”

For example, all students have the right to be addressed by a preferred name and self-identified pronoun, the board explained, “regardless of whether the student has obtained a legal name or sex designation change.”

A preferred name will be used on any non-official record, such as class lists or timetables. To make the change on the official school documents, one’s name must be legally changed. The guideline notes that “intentionally addressing a student by other than their preferred name or pronoun is discriminatory and is unacceptable.”

The board will also offer more professional development and training to “develop the awareness, knowledge, skills and attitudes necessary to deliver an inclusive curriculum that includes anti-homophobia and anti-transphobia education, identify and address homophobic and transphobic discriminatory attitudes and behaviour, and support and advocate for students whose identity or perceived identity is LGBTQ+.”

Education will also be provided to staff about anti-transphobia education, gender stereotypes, and using gender neutral and inclusive language.

David Briggs is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of BayToday, a publication of Village Media. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

David Briggs, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter,