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Call for Langley school board to develop queer-friendly policy

District's teachers' association wants plan brought to board by May

Langley Teachers' Association president Gail Chaddock-Costello calls for administrators and teachers to be educated about queer issues, age-appropriate education in all grades, and parental awareness of the needs of queer students and their families. Credit: Nathaniel Christopher photo

The Langley Teachers Association went before the district’s school board Feb 21 to call for specific policy to protect queer students and staff.

“This district for about four or five years has not made any policy decisions or implemented a separate district-wide policy for LGBT issues,” teachers’ association president Gail Chaddock-Costello says. “The challenge tonight is that we’d like to see a district policy presented to the board no later than May 12.”

In a report to the school board, the association called for the creation of a committee that would advise the board on queer issues, develop the policy and a comprehensive action plan for the trustees to vote on by the May deadline, and include representatives from educational partners.

“School boards are required to have a clearly written harassment policy stressing the importance of a school culture free from LGBTQ discrimination,” says Chaddock-Costello in her presentation to the board. “It’s also very clear that the school board policy must address the issue of seriousness around harassment and bullying, outline procedural guidelines with complaints and investigations, indicate the range of disciplinary actions, and ensure the policy applies to all and is consistently enforced.”

Chaddock-Costello also spoke to the need for administrators and teachers to be educated about queer issues; for age-appropriate education for all levels, from kindergarten to Grade 12; and for increased parental awareness of the needs of queer students and their families.

Ron Lindsay, a reverend at the Restoration Community Church in Langley, voiced his support for the proposed policy and called on the board to “rise up, be bold and be strong.”

“Bullying is an offence to human dignity,” he told the board. “Let me make it clear tonight: this is not about the issue of marriage, this is not about the issue of adoption. Don’t be clouded by other issues. Those are outside this jurisdiction, but your jurisdiction tonight is about the dignity toward all of the students from Aldergrove to Walnut Grove, to Willoughby to the City of Langley, to every individual under your jurisdiction.”

Langley Board of Education chair Wendy Johnson says trustees will discuss the issue, make decisions as a group and then move forward.

“I have family members and friends who are members of the LGBT community,” she says. “I’m a retired high school principal and I had a GSA in my school, and kids came and asked if they could do this, and I said yes. We had some teacher volunteers and I used to attend the occasional meeting, and after a while the kids said, ‘We don’t need you. We’ll meet on our own in the band room because it’s quiet and off the beaten path.’ All kinds of kids came because it was a safe place to talk about issues of concern to them, so it’s great, and important.”

Raven Loucks and Lucy Clarkson, students at Langley Fine Arts School, reported on the meeting for their school newspaper, the Blue Dog Press. They say their school is very supportive of queer students and staff.

“I came out last year and I never felt unsafe at school,” Clarkson says. “It’s always been a very safe school as there’s a large of number of LGBT people in the school, so it’s never been a big issue.” She hopes the proposed policy would ensure all the district’s students feel safe and supported.

“I know that students from other schools haven’t had the opportunity to have the same experience I’ve had,” she says. “I consider myself very lucky to have a positive experience being out as a queer student.”