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Mayencourt to introduce Safe Schools bill

Vancouver-Burrard’s gay MLA, Lorne Mayencourt, will finally introduce his revised Safe Schools bill in the BC Legislature on Mar 29, as Xtra West hits the stands. “It’s definitely going in on Wednesday and I’m excited about doing it,” Mayencourt told Xtra West Mar 27.

The long-awaited bill was originally expected last September but was delayed until February to let the fall legislative session deal with other business. In February, Mayencourt said it would be ready around mid-March. He was planning to introduce the bill Mar 27 but that got postponed two more days.

The private member’s bill “spent a fair amount of time with the BC Human Rights Tribunal,” says Mayencourt, explaining that he wanted the tribunal’s feedback before introducing the bill to ensure it would be enforceable.

Mayencourt introduced the first incarnation of the Safe Schools bill in 2005. It died on the table when the legislature adjourned for last May’s provincial election. His first bill required school boards across BC to establish district-wide codes of conduct prohibiting bullying, harassment, intimidation and discrimination based on a number of grounds, including sexual orientation and gender identity.

Though a sneak preview of the new bill was not available as Xtra West went to press, Mayencourt says it concentrates more on remediation for students than his first bill did. “It paves the way for schools to examine the effect, not the intent” of discrimination on students, he says.

If passed, the bill will also require schools to communicate their codes, whether using materials provided by organizations like Gay and Lesbian Educators of BC (GALE) or others, Mayencourt notes.

In 2004, the BC Liberals introduced province-wide safe schools guidelines, based on recommendations by a task force headed by Mayencourt. These guidelines were panned by critics for stopping short of specifying what qualified as unacceptable behaviour and for not explicitly prohibiting homophobic harassment.

“Definitely what I’m hoping for is wording that will make [anti-homophobia policy] mandatory,” says GALE’s Steve LeBel of Mayencourt’s new bill.

“I have a very strong hope if [the bill] has this language that government members will see fit to support it,” LeBel adds.