SOGI-inclusive policies and procedures save lives.
Effective policies and procedures that explicitly reference SOGI have been proven to reduce discrimination, suicidal ideation and suicide attempts for all students.*
What is your district policy? Read on to learn how to create or improve policies and procedures for your district.
“64% of LGBTQ+ students feel unsafe at school.”
“Every Class in Every School” Final Report, Egale 2011
Understanding legislation and policy requirements
Alberta law protects Albertans from discrimination based on their actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.
Under the School Act, boards have a responsibility to ensure that students and staff are provided with welcoming, caring, respectful and safe learning environments that respect diversity and foster a sense of belonging. The act also requires boards to establish, implement and maintain a policy that includes the establishment of a code of conduct for students that addresses bullying behaviour. The code of conduct must be publicly available, reviewed annually, provided to all students and their parents as well as staff, and contain specific elements as outlined in the Act.
The School Act requires school authorities to support students to establish a voluntary student organization, or to lead an activity intended to promote positive learning environments. The Act also gives students the right to select a respectful and inclusive
name for their organization, including the name Gay-Straight Alliance or Queer-Straight Alliance.
Further, the Act also requires students and their parents to ensure their conduct contributes to learning environments that are welcoming, caring, respectful and safe.
New policies must be posted in all schools and made publicly available by June 30, 2018.
12 Best Practices
Twelve best practices for effective SOGI-Inclusive Policies and Procedures
This list was compiled by Alberta Education and can be found in the Alberta Education, Guidelines for Best Practices: Creating Learning Environments that Respect Diverse Sexual Orientations, Gender Identities and Gender Expressions.
1. INDIVIDUAL SUPPORTS
ProviDE supports that respond to a student’s individual needs. Supports that work for one student may not work for another.
2. RESPECTING AN INDIVIDUAL'S RIGHT TO SELF-IDENTIFICATION
All individuals have the right to be addressed by their chosen name and to choose pronouns that align with their gender identity and/or gender expression.
3. PRIVACY AND CONFIDENTIALITY
Maintain school records in a way that respects privacy and confidentiality.
4. DRESS CODES
Ensure that dress codes respect an individual’s gender identity and gender expression.
5. MINIMIZE GENDER-SEGREGATED ACTIVITIES
Reduce gender-segregated activities to the greatest extent possible. This increases opportunities to respect students’ full expression of who they are and allows them to play, learn, dress, present and express themselves in flexible and diverse ways that are congruent with their gender identity or gender expression.
6. EXTRA-CURRICULAR ACTIVITIES
Enable students with diverse sexual orientations, gender identities and gender expressions to have full, safe and equitable participation in curricular and extra-curricular activities.
7. SAFE ACCESS TO WASHROOM AND CHANGE-ROOM FACILITIES
Students with diverse sexual orientations, gender identities and gender expressions have a right to accommodation when it comes to the use of washroom and change-room facilities that are congruent with their gender identity.
8. PROFESSIONAL LEARNING
Providing professional learning opportunities that build the capacity of staff to understand and support diverse sexual orientations, gender identities and gender expressions.
9. WHOLE-SCHOOL APPROACH
Use a comprehensive whole-school approach to promote healthy relationships and prevent and respond to bullying behaviour.
10. RESPECT AND BELONGING
Ensure students have the understanding, skills and opportunities to contribute to welcoming, caring, respectful and safe learning environments that respect diversity and nurture a sense of belonging and a positive sense of self.
11. SUPPORT FAMILIES
Ensure all families are welcomed and supported as valued members of the school community.
12. STAFF WORK ENVIRONMENTS
Ensure that school staff have work environments where they are protected from discrimination based on their sexual orientations, gender identities and gender expressions.
Download the Alberta Education, Guidelines for Best Practices: Creating Learning Environments that Respect Diverse Sexual Orientations, Gender Identities and Gender Expressions for full details.
Resources for SOGI-inclusive policies
The following resources are highly recommended and contain proven best practices.
Alberta Education Bill 24 Requirements
Bill 24 has been passed to support students who create or join gay-straight alliances or queer-straight alliances at their schools.
The Minister of Education has shared a sample policy for Welcoming, Caring, Respectful and Safe Learning Environments that meets the minimum requirements of Bill 24.
Progress Report on LGBTQ Policies of Four Alberta School Boards
Public Interest Alberta and the MacEwan University's Dr. Kristopher Wells have released Progress Report on LGBTQ Policies of Four Alberta School Boards. The report includes a comprehensive exemplary policy (Model Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, and Gender Expression Policy, Appendix 3) which boards can use to ensure that all legislative requirements have been met in exemplary ways.
“With higher levels of discrimination and bullying, and lower levels of family, school, and community support, LGBTQ+ youth face higher risks for significant health challenges, including suicidal thoughts and attempts, and problem substance use. However, when LGBTQ+ youth experience safe and supportive schools and families, they are much less likely to report these health challenges.”
*Saewyc E., Poon C., Kovaleva K., Tourand J., & Smith A. (2016). School-based interventions to reduce health disparities among LGBTQ+ youth: Considering the evidence.