When it comes to Leadership from the Westwind School Division on behalf of ALL students, parents and community members, there is much we do that may not reach the front page of the paper or get the most play on Facebook and other social media, but which has a great impact.
In his role as Chair of the Westwind School School Board, Mr. Ron Fromm had a personal telephone conversation with Minister Eggen on Thursday, February 25. This call was to discuss the concerns of our community about the rights of ALL students as the Board develops policy in the area of welcoming, safe, caring, and respectful school environments.
The Minister commended Mr. Fromm for the leadership he and the Westwind Board have provided in this area. Minister Eggen acknowledged the strong feelings of some members of the Westwind community who are lobbying to have recent changes to the Alberta Human Rights Act and the School Act reversed.
Mr. Fromm was very forthright in letting the Minister know that the Guidelines for Best Practice have not been helpful. He informed the minster that they have created considerable confusion and consternation in the minds of some parents. Mr. Fromm also indicated that there were two areas of greatest concern. One was the issue of parental rights, especially wanting full disclosure from teachers to parents about their children while at school. The other was the issue of guaranteeing the rights of those who feel unsafe, uncared for, unwelcome and disrespected if placed in circumstances where they are expected to share segregated washrooms or change rooms with biologically dissimilar gendered individuals. Mr Fromm emphasized the point that this is about ensuring that the rights of ALL people are respected and fairly addressed. It has to be a situation where ALL the rights listed in the Alberta Human Rights Act have equal status and some are not privileged over others.
In response, Minister Eggen assured Mr. Fromm that he never had any intention of seeing any rights marginalized. He reiterated that the Guidelines for Best Practice were intended to be a resource for boards, but if they are not helping then don't use them in your policies. Minister Eggen also indicated that if anyone thinks that their religious rights or parental rights are being diminished that they should be reassured that that is not the case. That was never intended. Minister Eggen said that the Westwind Board has his support in addressing these concerns.
Both the Minister and Board Chair Ron Fromm acknowledged that the directions taken in the Human Rights Act and the School Act were intended to help students. They were intended to address and eliminate the very real causes of suicide attempts and sense of alienation that transgendered students feel in our schools. They were intended to give these students a chance to feel secure and have a sense of belonging that they currently do not have. Mr. Fromm again asserted the commitment to provide leadership that benefits ALL students. He explained that the Westwind policy will provide a framework and direction for the Division that seeks to achieve a culture where everyone, not only feels they belong, but that ALL are in very deed welcomed, cared for, safe and respected.
Minister Eggen also indicated that he felt it was unfortunate that some communities were really putting pressure on Boards to simply dismiss the legal and moral obligation to create policies that include all children. He told Mr. Fromm that he felt the Westwind Board was providing excellent leadership. He indicated he would provide a letter to hopefully provide greater clarity and assurance to the Westwind Board and community.
You can see the latest draft of Policy #310.0 Welcoming, Safe, Caring, and Respectful Schools at this link. This draft was reviewed and approved by the Board at their March Board meeting.