School District 5 is planning to review its sexual orientation policy that was created in May of 2006.
The policy was created six years ago this month, and the school board trustees are hoping to gather stakeholders to see what's been done in the school system over the years to address the important issues laid out within it.
"There was a recognized need to develop a policy that spoke to the issue of sexual orientation that dealt with the students and families in today's world," said trustee Chris Johns.
The Cranbrook District Teachers' Association supported the initiative and it was put together by a committee of people in the school environment such as counsellors, board office staff and parents. Johns at the time was president of the teachers' association. Fellow trustee Trina Ayling said he's a great person to have on board now as they begin the review process.
"We've got that connection from the earliest seed of the policy," Ayling said. "It's good to have that continuity."
SD5 became one of the first school boards in B.C. to adopt principles outlining what rights students and their families in the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, transgendered, transsexual, two-spirited and questioning community have. The policy also applies to any employees within SD5.
"I don't think anybody really thought we were in the vanguard of this policy," Johns said.
Since the policy was implemented, it has been left up to school administration to put in place. Johns said he isn't sure what has been implemented in area schools since the policy was adopted, but the review will determine what has been done.
Johns said the trustees had heard from the community that it was time to take a look at the sexual orientation policy during the Neighbourhood Learning Centre consultations. This time, Johns hopes students can participate in discussions on sexual orientation in the school district.
"When it was done originally there was, to my knowledge, no student involvement," he said.
The committee that will take a look at the policy and its impact on SD5 should be up and running by the end of the school year, Ayling said. One change she would like to see is the term "sexual preference" being used in the policy. She is happy with what the policy states.
"I think the policy is good as it exists," Ayling said.
Both Johns and Ayling agree it would be better if such a policy weren't necessary, if respect and safety were guaranteed for students and staff regardless of their sexual orientation. With it in place, it gives the schools and board something to refer to when issues arise.
"It sets a standard," Ayling said. "It sets an expectation and it opens the door for conversation."
By addressing sexual orientation, Johns said they have brought the issue out into the open.
"(It is) the elephant in the room that people don't want to talk about," he said.
Ayling agrees, and thinks policies like the one developed in SD5 could help change attitudes.
"There's a cultural shift that needs to happen around sexual orientation," she said. "It often starts with a policy that says we're going to respect these people's rights. I think these things need to come first sometimes, unfortunately.
"Sometimes you assume it's a given, but it's not a given. I wish it were - children suffer."
The school board expects to talk with stakeholders including students, counsellors, administration and parents to find out where the "hot spots are" in order to adapt the policy if needed.
Anyone interested in participating in the upcoming review is encouraged to call the school board and express interest.
"There very much may be some stakeholders out there that we don't know about," Ayling said.
The sexual orientation policy is available on the SD5 website.