In July 2016, Bill 27- Human Rights Code Amendment Act was passed to include “gender identity or expression” among the protected grounds covered by the BC Human Rights Code. The B.C. Ministry of Education and Child Care followed in September 2016 with its own directive asking that explicit references to sexual orientation and gender identity be added to the policies and codes of conduct in each school district. The Ministry of Education and Child Care has produced a SOGI Policy Guide that includes three goals for supporting diverse sexual orientations, gender identities and expressions:
- Visibility: The diversity of sexual orientations, gender identities and expressions are recognized and valued.
- Protection: The dignity of all people across the sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) spectra is intended to be preserved, as well as protected from harm.
- Inclusion: Equitable treatment and inclusion are a reality for people of all sexual orientations, gender identities and expressions
Hence, schools have the legal responsibility to proactively create safe, inclusive learning environments for all students. Some students face physical barriers, while other barriers, like sexual orientation and gender identity, are not so visible.
Unfortunately, schools are not always safe places for 2SLGBTQIA+* youth to be out or to be themselves. Similarly, students who express their gender in less common ways or who come from 2SLGBTQIA+ families can experience school as unsafe or unwelcoming. These experiences greatly increase the risk of significant mental health concerns in youth. The McCreary Centre Society reported that 2SLGBTQIA+ youth are at a much greater risk of attempting suicide than their same-aged, straight and cisgender peers.
While a lot of great work has occurred over many years to improve the school experiences all students with regards to SOGI, there remains a need to ensure that all school staff who work directly with students in schools have access to tools, resources, and supports to help make a difference
For more information, please read the joint statement of support for SOGI from the Minister of Education and Child Care and B.C. K-12 education partners.
*NOTE: 2SLGBTQIA+ is used to refer to two-spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual, pansexual, non-binary et al.