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New Westminster approves draft gender policy

Policy recognizes importance of respecting sexual orientation and gender equity among students and staff

The New Westminster school district became the 24th district in the province to develop a policy addressing sexual orientation and gender equity after trustees approved the policy at Tuesday night's board of education meeting.

"I'm proud and excited to be here tonight to present this policy," Superintendent John Woudzia told trustees.

The draft policy, which was first approved back in May of 2012, has been circulating around the education community and stakeholder groups for about a year, according to Woudzia.

Feedback and comments were received from a number of groups, including the Royal City Pride Society, Fraser Health and social justice and gender studies classes at the high school. Some of the groups provided suggestions to improve the policy, and senior management did its best to include as many of these suggestions as possible, Woudzia said.

Additions to the policy included outlining clear consequences and enforcement of these consequences as well as definitions for heterosexual, cisgender, referring to an individual whose perception of their gender matches the sex they were assigned at birth; cissexual, referring to individuals who aren't transsexual and have only experienced their "mental and physical sexes as being aligned."

"I'm absolutely glad we're doing this," said trustee Jonina Campbell during the meeting.

Trustee MaryAnn Mortensen echoed Campbell's sentiments and said she was happy to see such an extensive consultation process.

"This speaks to the inclusion and equity we want in our community," she added.

The sexual orientation and gender equity policy aims to create a safe and welcoming environment for all staff and students "regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity."

Trustees agreed this policy is a step towards acceptance rather than tolerance.

"The real test will come from being able to change the culture," Campbell said. "The strength that it takes kids ... to be themselves, and it's our responsibility to provide a safe and caring environment where they can thrive."

The implementation of this policy will begin in September, when a district advisory committee is established. This committee will discuss how the policy will be introduced in schools, Woudzia said.

A copy of the draft policy can be viewed online at and select the link for the June 25 meeting agenda.