Board chair Jonina Campbell explains need for inclusiveness
By Angela Espinoza, News Editor
The New Westminster school board is introducing an updated policy regarding the inclusion of students who identify under different genders, sexes, and orientations.
“We had a policy in place,” said Jonina Campbell, currently chair of the school board. “and when you write a policy and you have something that just sits there, it’s not really affecting a change in the culture.”
Campbell stated that while the presence of the policy is important, acting on those policies plays a large role in creating an inclusive environment.
“We asked our superintendent [John Gaiptman] to re-write the policy to be more action-oriented,” said Campbell, “to really affect a change in the district culture that supports and values diversity, including making a welcome learning environment for everyone.”
The previous policy, the Anti-Homophobia policy, was introduced last June. The new policy, while undergoing a revamp, is also now called the Gender and Sexual Diversity Inclusion policy.
“The word ‘inclusion’ is really important here because this, the second policy, is a policy about what we stand for.
“We want students to be able to walk through the doors and feel a sense of belonging,” said Campbell. “We can talk about issues with safety, and make sure students are safe, but also importantly along with that everybody [should] feel like they’re included in that school.”
Along with wanting to make all students feel welcome, a number of school board associates will be able to work with the board on making changes and updates as a committee.
“In the previous policy, it was set that the superintendent would review it every year, but this policy creates a committee,” said Campbell. “This committee—which will be representative of all our stakeholders and partner groups and likely community groups as well—will meet to make recommendations to the board around how to keep the work we’re doing progressive and always proactive so that we’re not falling behind.
“Everybody’s accountable in this policy to being committed to creating that welcoming inclusive culture where there’s a healthy sense of acceptance, of diversity.”
Campbell added that the board will be issuing an annual public statement regarding the new policy once it goes into effect. The statement will also be “promoting and supporting school clubs such as social justice or gay-straight alliance clubs for all youth.”
“The idea behind this is that, once a year, the board stands up and publicly celebrates and recognizes the work that’s being done in the district through our kids, through our staff, through our community relationships, and host some kind of recognition event or ceremony.”
In creating the new policy, Campbell stated the board worked with various groups, including the New Westminster Pride Society. One note of feedback asked specific mention of “LGBTQ” to be removed from the document because, as Campbell states, “it wasn’t inclusive enough,” considering all the variations of letters, their meanings, and all the different identities deserving equal representation.
Campbell also thanked the numerous staff who have helped out in putting the new policy together, which will be voted on January 27.