My name is Jennifer Davis. I have a PhD in Psychology. I’ve published articles on parent-child interactions. I teach child development and adolescent development. But today I’m here as a mother. And today I’m here to represent the rights of our children. ALL of our children.
By supporting policy 502.2 as it is currently written, we don’t simply improve life for LGBTQ students. We improve the lives of ALL students.
Some argue that this policy is unnecessary, that it goes too far. They say our children are already protected. The very existence of this meeting proves that they are not.
Some say that they support our queer youth and that they oppose this policy for other reasons. This is not what our children hear. They hear that our school board is trying to pass a policy intended to protect them, and that these people are trying to stop it.
Imagine how this makes them feel.
LGBTQ children in this province are thrown out of their homes. They are living, homeless, on the streets. They are dying. They are as much as 10x more likely to attempt suicide. 14x in Calgary.1 Suicide is the leading cause of death among LGBTQ youth. And yet some would block the policy designed to try to keep them alive. Or rewrite it to erase their existence.
These things are happening right now in this province to children just because they are gay, lesbian, or transgender. Maybe not to your children. Maybe not to mine. But they are happening and these children are somebody’s children. They are our children. They are our responsibility and they need our protection.
“But parental rights!” some may argue. “I have a right to know what my child is telling their teachers!” It might be safe for your child to confide in you. But again, I remind you, you are not every parent. Only 20% of LGBTQ students report feeling fully comfortable talking to their parents. 20% - that’s only 1 in 5.2
“But what about the needs of other children?” some argue. “What about children with learning disabilities or recent immigrants?” Their needs absolutely should be addressed. And they are, in policy 605.1 and 605.3 respectively. That is not what this policy is about This policy addresses the specific needs of students who are members of gender and sexual minorities. And they need special protection.
3 out of 4 LGB and 19 out of 20 transgender students report feeling unsafe at school, compared to 1 out of 5 straight, cis-gendered students. 1 out of every 2 LGB and 3 out of every 4 transgender students reports being verbally, physically, or sexually harassed AT SCHOOL. 2
District 51 has recognized the unique vulnerabilities of these students, just as they have already recognized the unique vulnerabilities of ESL students in policy 605.3, of FNMI students in policy 602.4, of students in need of learning support in policy 605.1
Without this new policy, LGBTQ student are not safe in our schools. With it they will be safer. And they are not the only ones who will benefit. Research out of UBC shows that when schools create policy specifically aimed at reducing the rates of bullying of LGBTQ students it isn’t just these students who benefit.3,4 Suicide rates go down. Alcoholism goes down. Perceptions of being safe and supported go up. FOR ALL STUDENTS. Among heterosexual boys the suicide rate drops by half.
On the other hand, when schools put policy in place to reduce bullying – just general bullying – without specific mention of LGBTQ students NONE of these things happen.
THIS is why I support the current proposed policy and I support it as written.
I support it in the name of my children, in the name of your children, in the name of ALL children.