September 30, 2016 - 6:30 PM
KAMLOOPS - The Thompson-Okanagan school district is taking steps toward creating a more diverse and accepting environment in its schools.
The district is hiring a sexual orientation and gender identification district coordinator. The person who lands the job will be responsible for raising awareness, and supporting teachers and students.
Assistant Supt. Bill Hamblett says the year-long position is a pilot project and he believes it's a step in the right direction.
"Its acknowledging diversity in our schools," Hamblett says. "We need to embrace all people and all students."
The province recently required all schools to have explicit policies referencing sexual orientation and gender identity in place. Hamblett says this pilot program is the plan Kamloops came up with to meet those requirements.
"It’s not just a school district, it’s a community awareness that there is diversity in our communities and our schools," Hamblett says.
This new program, funded in part by the ARC Foundation, was introduced more than a year after the Kamloops school district rejected adopting a new policy to protect students from homophobic harassment.
Hamblett says the school district's bullying policy falls in line with standards set out by the Ministry of Education and the B.C. Human Rights code.
Steps toward the acceptance of LGBTQ students have been taken by school districts across the province over the last few years. In 2013, the Vernon school district decided to create a mandatory anti-homophobia policy.
The new sexual orientation and gender identification coordinator will be in charge of auditing existing school resources, creating Gay Straight Alliance groups in high schools and guiding teachers on how to incorporate awareness into grade-level curriculum.
"We want to make everybody feel welcome," Hamblett says. "The bottom line is, we want safe schools for all of our students."
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