School district to adopt ‘strengthened’ policy for LGBTQ students after provincial changes

The Anglophone East district education council has voted to implement what it describes as a strengthened version of the New Brunswick government’s Policy 713 to protect LGBTQ students.

The elected council that oversees 39 schools in southeastern New Brunswick voted unanimously in favor of creating the policy in a rebuke to provincial changes to Policy 713 announced this month. The motion says the changes “endanger students in our district.”

“We decided that that was an important thing to do given the government’s reduction of the protection of our kids,” Kristin Cavoukian, a council member who introduced the motion, said in an interview.

The original 2020 version and the updated version taking effect in July allow district education councils to “develop policies and procedures that are consistent with, or more comprehensive than, this provincial policy.”

The district will use that power to establish its own policy, which will be posted online by Aug. 1.

Motion passed

A news release says the policy would have three components:

  • School personnel would consult with a transgender or non-binary student to determine their preferred first name and pronoun, which would be used in the way of the student requests.
  • The policy would apply to all students, no matter their age.
  • All district students would be able to participate in school and extra-curricular activities in a safe, welcoming way consistent with their gender identity.

The motion passed without debate.

“Bravo,” someone in the meeting said after the vote.

WATCH | Why this member of the district education council put forward the motion:

The Anglophone East council adopts its own policy for LGBTQ students

The district education council voted unanimously to ensure students in Anglophone East are consulted before staff talk to parents about names or pronouns.

“Everyone was in agreement that this was the proper way forward,” Cavoukian said in the interview.

Cavoukian said before the vote that people are likely alarmed about the rising hateful speech the provincial Policy 713 review prompted but also inspired activism.

“We also promised our kids would not back down on this,” Cavoukian said of a speech given at a rally at Moncton city hall.

“In the two years that I’ve sat on this [district education council]this is the motion that I have the most pride in that we have passed,” Dominic Vautour, another member of the council, said after the vote.

Harry Doyle, chair of the council, said he agreed.

The vote followed changes to Policy 713, a provincewide education policy that the New Brunswick government reviewed and changed this year.

WATCH | CBC’s Raechel Huizinga breaks down Policy 713 changes:

CBC News Explains: How did the New Brunswick government change Policy 713?

New Brunswick’s Department of Education made several changes to a policy designed to protect LGBTQ students, affecting sections on self-identification, extracurricular activities and washrooms.

CBC has requested comment from the provincial government about the education council’s motion.

New Brunswick Child and Youth Advocate Kelly Lamrock said the province’s review appeared to be triggered by three emails, one laden with conspiracy theories. After reviewing the changes to the policy, Lamrock called for the province to reverse the changes.

“The drafting here, regardless of the issue, is so shoddy and inadvertently discriminatory that it really doesn’t seem to meet anybody’s purposes,” Lamrock has said.

A crowd of people surrounding a man and holding microphones up to him.
Education Minister Bill Hogan has said the province does not intend to ‘out’ students but changes to Policy 713 remove a requirement to seek a student’s consent before school officials speak to parents. (Jacques Poitras/CBC)

Bill Hogan, the province’s education minister, has said the changes would make it mandatory to obtain parental consent before using a child under 16’s chosen name and pronoun in class.

Hogan has said the province has no plans to “out” students without their consent, the changes removed a line in the policy that required informed consent from students before discussing the issue with their parents.

Another change to Policy 713 removed motion of gender identity in a section about sports and other activities.

A third change calls for each school to have private gender neutral washrooms and a private universal change room.

The motion passed Tuesday touches on two of those changes: Use of a student’s preferred pronoun and name, and participation in activities.

The council members have previously spoken out about the province’s review of the policy. During its May meeting council members denounced comments made that day by Premier Blaine Higgs about Policy 713.

They also spoke out at that time about how a bill was proposing to remove the decision-making power of the four anglophone district education councils. Last week, Hogan told the legislature that Bill 46 would not move ahead.

On Tuesday, Cavoukian spoke about the importance of having local decision-making power for councils on education policy.

Vautour echoed that.

“If Bill 46 would have gone through, we would not have been able to protect the kids in our district from the gutting changes to Policy 713,” Vautour said. “It’s a prime example of where local democracy works.”

The news release issued by the council Tuesday also calls for other district education councils in the province to follow suit.

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