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Kamloops News

No new policy for homophobic harassment


KAMLOOPS — A new policy covering homophobic harassment in schools is not needed. That's the decision the school district came to after nearly nine months of reviews, consultations, a petition and finally a survey of students, staff and parental groups.

The issue was raised last spring when the Kamloops Thompson Teachers' Association approached the board asking for a homophobic harassment policy to be put in place. In May teacher Don Wilson said he felt the need to come forward after it appeared administration had let harassment happen to one student because he was so 'campy.'

An outcry from the community followed, including a student petition started by then Grade 11 student Lindsay Campbell. The petition was later used during the consultation phase and surveys were sent out to staff, students and parent advisory councils asking for input on the current policy and whether it covered homophobic harassment.

In December Trustee Gerald Watson said preliminary results from the survey showed support for the current bullying protocol and the board later decided to not pursue a specific homophobic harassment policy.

But Watson says trustees are not ignoring the fact that adjustments to the current policy may be needed to help ensure everyone is better protected.

“The policy committee reported there wasn't a need to make adjustments to policy with respect to the (teachers' association) presentation,” Watson says. “Part of that report said we would undertake to go through all the umbrella policies to make sure they're modern, have proper language.”

The district tries to review policies every five years or so but decided to review the bullying and intimidation policy earlier because of recent WorkSafe B.C. Regulations on workplace bullying and the request for a discreet anti-homophobic policy from the teachers' association.

“We should look at it every once in a while,” Watson notes, adding, “We aren't intending an overhaul unless required.”

From the time the teacher association stood before the board last year Watson has said he feels the current policy covers all types of harassment and that a separate policy likely isn't needed.

“There's a code of conduct... (for) what acceptable behaviour is,” he notes, adding the current policies are not intended for just specific instances.

Watson says the key piece in all policies is ensuring staff know how to deal with bullying when it does occur and the district offers training to help employees with that piece.

To contact a reporter for this story, email or call 250-819-3723.

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