It is because parents and members of the public are speaking up with their questions and concerns regarding policies on sexual orientation and gender identity that a number of MLAs and school boards are asking for more public feedback.
For example, Grande Prairie Public School District has released an information package and an online survey on their website to provide answers to frequently asked questions and gain feedback from the public before their board meeting on Feb 9th.
Also, in the area of Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills, MLA Nathan Cooper is seeking constituency input on LGBTQ guidelines.
Since school boards are the ones tasked with the responsibility of writing and implementing these policies, using Alberta Education’s “Guidelines to Best Practices” document to support them, it may be helpful to understand some background on school boards themselves.
There are 61 school boards in Alberta. Each school board consists of a group of people called trustees. Trustees are elected by citizens during the Municipal Elections, which are held every four years on the third Monday of October. The current term for the trustees is 2013 – 2017.
Each trustee is elected by an area that they are accountable to and responsible for. School boards have many responsibilities, including making policies and setting an overall direction for schools in their jurisdiction. The school board hires a superintendent who carries out the operational duties of the board. The province sets out overall aims and legislation that school boards must follow, such as the School Act.
It is important to understand that all citizens are responsible for the election of trustees. This means that trustees are accountable to all members of the public in their area, whether those citizens have children in school or not. This is because members of the public are all viewed as stakeholders when it comes to a publically funded education system.
If you are an Albertan who is concerned about the guidelines released by Alberta Education or how the school board in your area will implement policies on this issue, I encourage you to share your concerns and questions with your locally elected trustee. Again, it doesn’t matter if you have children in the school system or not because the trustees are accountable to all members of the public in the area that elected them.
If you do not know the name or contact information of your trustee, type the name of your school district and the word “trustee” into an online search engine like Google. Most often the list of trustees will include their email addresses and phone numbers.
Here are links for a list of trustees in Calgary & Edmonton:
Edmonton Public School Board Trustees **Note that EPSB has had a sexual orientation/gender identity policy in place since 2011. Please access links to the policy from the Jan 26 blog post to ensure that concerns and questions raised are specific to their existing policies)
You can also contact your local MLA with your concerns. If you do not know the name of your MLA, there is a search tool on the Legislative Assembly of Alberta website that can help you. However, because the guidelines are not considered legislation by the provincial government, the MLAs do not have as much direct influence over the actual policies. Even so, since the guidelines were issued by the provincial government, the MLAs can present issues and concerns with the document to the members of the Legislature.
It is important all Albertans understand that their input is important and valued. Please speak up and have your voice heard.