In all advocacy efforts we have encouraged people to send their letters of concern to Minister of Education David Eggen, as well as a copy to the office of MLA Mark Smith, the Wildrose Opposition Education Critic.
On Friday I phoned the constituency office of MLA Mark Smith to ask about the number of emails and letters they have received so far on this specific issue.
This includes any correspondence on the topic addressed to Mr. Mark Smith, as well as correspondence forwarded to their office that has been received by any other Wildrose MLAs in the province on this topic.
The answer? At least 1400. The receptionist said this number is “excessive” and their office has had to hire an additional staff person just to help keep up to being able to respond to each person.
Your advocacy efforts have been working.
Because of my more public role as the author of this blog, a number of people forward the replies they receive from their MLAs, trustees, etc.
It has become apparent from reading a number of these replies that several NDP MLAs from different areas have replied to letters of concern with a form letter that concludes with the following statements:
“What our guidelines have identified is that not all students are supported in their homes when it comes to their expressed gender identity. A 2015 Canadian Trans Youth Health Survey found that 70 per cent of respondents felt their family didn’t understand them and one in three did not have an adult they could discuss their problems with. Nearly two-thirds of those surveyed reported self-harm in the past year and more than one-in-three said they had attempted suicide.
Schools can be the place where students struggling at home can feel safe. It’s our legal responsibility to support them as best we can.”
Interestingly enough, I would encourage you ALL to the read the study that they quote from in their MLA response letter: http://www.saravyc.ubc.ca/2015/05/05/being-safe-being-me-results-of-the-canadian-trans-youth-health-survey/
Here are just a few quotes from the Executive Summary on the opening pages:
“Family relationships are important, and while trans youth generally reported feeling their parents cared about them, 70% reported their family did not understand them, and about 1 in 3 did not have an adult in their family they could talk to about problems. When youth had high levels of parent support and family connectedness, they reported much better health.”
“…there are a number of recommendations that emerge from the findings: 1. Support for families of trans youth: Families are a key source of support for young people. We need better outreach and support for families, to help them understand and support their trans youth, and to help trans youth feel safe at home.”
If you received the above form letter from your MLA and want to reply, perhaps being able to provide the rest of the research from the study that they quote from would help.
Isn’t it interesting: even the study the government uses to defend their conclusions actually encourages (as its FIRST key recommendation) the importance of support for families and acknowledges that families are a key source of support.
As well, the research directly acknowledges that “trans youth generally reported feeling their parents cared for them.”
To me, this is a very different message then what is being suggested by the MLA form letter response (and even sections of the guidelines themselves).
Also note that this study was done for youth ages 14-25 and so we must further question how directly applicable and developmentally appropriate the findings are to transfer to ALL students in our K-12 school system, who range in age from 4 years and up.
And, I would also like to add that it would be helpful to have a control sample from the general population of youth aged 14-25 for comparison purposes when claiming that “70% reported their family did not understand them”. I likely would have answered the same way when I was that age, regardless of my gender identity/sexual orientation. 🙂
Our government is basing their conclusions – and defending their conclusions – on the basis of research data that is taken out of context and it is feeding widespread public misperception. This is a problem.
Based on the 2015 Canadian Trans Youth Health Survey, we must advocate for policies that encourage at-risk, vulnerable youth to strengthen child-family bonds, as this is a key protective factor identified by the research to increase their resilience in the face of challenges and adversity.
In order to best protect the health and well-being of ALL students, we must advocate for procedures and supports in schools that encourage mediation and opening lines of communication – not ones that encourage isolation and suggest planting an inherent mistrust within the parent-child and parent-school relationship.
If you haven’t already, please JOIN the March 1 #protectABkids Twitter Campaign and help to publicly advocate together for a more thoughtful, balanced approach to sexual orientation and gender identity policies in schools.
We must speak up on behalf of all children, including trans youth.