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Kootenay Lake schools now safer for LGBT youth

Interior school district 33rd of BC’s 60 districts to pass LGBT policy

Kootenay Lake district superintendent Jeff Jones, seen here at a Pride parade, applauds the school board's new policy. Credit: Courtesy of Jeff Jones

BC’s Kootenay Lake School District passed a sexual orientation and gender identity policy Feb 24 committing the area covering Nelson, Kaslo, Creston, Yahk, Bountiful and the Slocan Valley to providing a safe and inclusive environment for all students and employees, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

With the policy’s adoption, Kootenay Lake becomes the 33rd of BC’s 60 school districts to adopt a policy explicitly addressing homophobia.

The policy promotes inclusion of all students and employees in all aspects of school life, including extracurricular activities; defines appropriate language and behaviour to prevent discrimination, harassment and exclusion; and aims to enhance understanding of the harmful effects of homophobic language and actions.

The policy also promises to take complaints of homophobia seriously and deal with them effectively and in a timely fashion through consistently applied policy.

District superintendent Jeff Jones, who married his husband Alex in 2009, tells Daily Xtra the Kootenay Lake school board has been working toward such a policy for a decade. “I’m thrilled to see it pass,” he says.

Jones says the school board recognizes that despite strong language in federal and provincial human rights legislation people still experience harassment at school and at work.

He hopes the day will come when people will look back at the need for such protective policies and shake their heads.

For now, he says, an ad hoc committee of interested people will help develop regulations to implement the policy across the district. Those regulations, when complete, will be presented to the board for approval, he says.

“We’re a community that does not tolerate harassment,” he says.