Jane Bouey makes no secret of the fact that she considers the safety of queer kids in schools a top priority.
As a queer COPE school board trustee, she’s been out in front of the pack demanding those rights and also educating fellow board members and the school district about queer issues.
Bouey says it’s vital to have queer representation on the school board.
“We bring an understanding of the issues that queer students, families and our queer staff experience,” she says. “I have an ability to explain things that might not be so readily apparent to others.”
Bouey says she’s “stunned” by how much the Vancouver School Board has achieved on queer issues in the past three years since she got elected.
She points to increased funding for counsellors and alternative programs that queer youth rely on, for example. As part of a comprehensive anti-homophobia policy passed last year, the board now encourages the formation of gay-straight alliances in its district, supports staff training, anti-homophobia workshops and the use of gay-friendly curriculum materials in classrooms, and prohibits harassment on the basis of sexual orientation.
Plus, Bouey says, the board now has what is likely the only Pride advisory committee in North America.
And, she adds, there are now two consultants working on anti-homophobia issues in the district. The consultants’ positions couldn’t have been created if the provincial government hadn’t restored some of the board’s funding, she notes.
But, she cautions, all these initiatives have been possible because the current, COPE-dominated Vancouver School Board is queer-friendly.
“There is still an awful lot more to do,” she says. “A less friendly board might end what we’ve accomplished. We need to ensure what we have accomplished is maintained, built on-and work to do more.”
Now seeking a second term on the Vancouver School Board, Bouey believes more can be done to help queer community groups like Youthquest and Out On Screen get into schools to educate on queer issues.
She says the decision on who presents in schools is made at the school level, but trustees need to encourage their schools to open their doors to queer groups seeking to do outreach.
She would also like to see the Vancouver School Board support MLA Lorne Mayencourt’s safe schools bill. The bill would make codes of conduct banning discrimination on bases such as sexual orientation mandatory in school districts across BC.
Bouey says the government has “ghettoized” the issue to its gay MLA rather than taking it on as a government issue. “How are we expected to believe this government takes these issues seriously at all if it’s left to Lorne to bring this up in a private member’s bill?” she asks.
Still, she says, as a trustee she can help ensure that anti-homophobia guidelines are part of the final legislation, whenever it’s introduced.
In the meantime, she points out that she convinced her peers in the BC School Trustees Association to pass a motion calling for gay-friendly policies to be put in place across the province, without waiting for government direction.