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2SLGBTQIA+ Inclusion in the UGDSB

The UGDSB values all students, employees, and families, regardless of age, ancestry, colour, race, citizenship, ethnic origin, place of origin, creed, ability, family status, marital status, gender identity, gender expression, socioeconomic status, employment, housing, sex, and sexual orientation1, and is committed to creating and maintaining a learning and working environment where everyone can participate fully, thrive, and reach their full potential, free from trauma, bias, stereotyping, oppression and systemic racism.

The UGDSB recognizes that many identities do not exist in a single form and are often intersecting with multiple identities. Intersectionality can create a compounding impact on oppression, discrimination and racism. The UGDSB is committed to identifying and disrupting systemic racism and oppression in all of its forms. ~ UGDSB Policy 504

Frequently Asked Questions

How does the UGDSB support 2SLGBTQIA+ staff and students?

The UGDSB is committed to naming and addressing homophobia, biphobia, transphobia, forms of hate and systems of oppression.  The UGDSB supports 2SLGBTQIA+ staff, students and their families by celebrating the joy of identity and centering 2SLGBTQIA+ histories, contributions and excellence in our learning and work communities. Current initiatives include: GSAs and student and staff affinity groups, staff and student gender affirming support process, inclusive forms and processes that honour names and pronouns, All-gender washrooms, training for employees, Pride flags, and learning and celebration (Pride Month).  As a workplace the UGDSB is addressing equitable hiring practices through voluntary self identification questions to purposefully increase gender diverse staff in addition to mandatory and voluntary training provided to all staff. 

Please see the following UGDSB policies:

What resources exist to support our family in developing more understanding about 2SLGBTQIA+ identities, histories and experiences? 

Sites:

Library Resources:

These books can be found in many of our school libraries as well as local public libraries.

What are GSA/Pride Clubs, what do they do, and why are they important?

Gay-Straight Alliances (GSA), Gender-Sexuality Alliances (GSA) or Pride based groups are student-initiated and led clubs (supervised by a staff member) found in many UGDSB schools. These clubs aim to create safe and supportive environments for members of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community and others to work within allyship*. These groups address historical and current marginalization and promote advocacy with the intent of creating awareness and reducing ignorance, stereotypes, homophobia and transphobia. Each GSA/Pride Club within the UGDSB is unique based on student interest and community need.

Student-initiated and led GSA/Pride Clubs function within many UGDSB elementary schools (for grades 5 and older), as well as UGDSB secondary schools. Through Bill 13, the Accepting Schools Act, the Ministry of Education requires school boards to allow students to form groups at their school to raise awareness and understanding of important topics including gender identity and sexual orientation.  Students and staff who have straight and cis-gendered** identities or family members and friends who identify as 2SLGBTQIA+ are often part of the GSA/Pride work within our schools. Working within allyship, these youth and staff can share their passion to make our schools safe for all 2SLGBTQIA+ people.  Oftentimes schools have social justice or equity themed clubs that address oppression across a wide spectrum of experiences, identities and concerns (racism, poverty, ableism etc.). These groups will often celebrate, support and facilitate 2SLGBTQIA+ needs similar to those of a GSA/Pride Club. 

GSA/Pride Clubs are important as they increase awareness of 2SLGBTQIA+ identities and foster safer spaces for marginalized students, families and staff. The safe space created in a GSA/Pride Club can help reduce feelings of isolation and increase self-esteem and self-worth. In addition,  GSA’s/Pride Clubs are spaces of social justice action work.  As a venue for student voice, students within these groups can lead information and awareness campaigns or activities supporting their school communities to be better informed about gender, sexuality and human rights. From this advocacy work, schools can continue to work towards being safe and inclusive places for all students, families and staff.

*Acting in allyship – supporting a marginalized group though not necessarily identifying as part of that marginalized group.
**Cis-gendered – a person whose gender identity and/or expression match the sex they were assigned at birth.

How does my child become involved in a GSA or Pride club?

Students are encouraged to speak to any staff member or administrator at their school about an existing club or group, or to find out more about starting a club. All schools within the UGDSB have an equity representative on staff who can provide more information and connect them with system supports. Jessica Rowden, the UGDSB’s Equity and Inclusion Lead, may also be contacted at [email protected].

What is the Pride flag and why is my child’s school flying the Pride flag? 

The current Pride flag’s exact colours and dimensions have changed from the Gilbert Baker flag, which first appeared as a representation of the LGBTQ+ community in 1977.  Most recently, inclusive pride flags incorporate additional histories, identities and considerations such intersectionality**.  Inclusive and progressive iterations of the Pride flag reflect contributors such as Monica Helms, Amber Hikes, and Daniel Quasar. Rainbow/Pride flags are strongly connected to the 2SLGBTQIA+ community and are also representative of social change cited as being a symbol of hope and peace. 

2SLGBTQIA+ stands for Two Spirit, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer or Questioning, Intersex and Asexual, while + stands for other ways folks express their gender and sexuality outside heteronormativity and the gender binary. There are specific flags and flag variations for many identities within the 2SLGBTQIA+ community.

UGDSB Day Of Pink   Big Promo

Pride Flag

Many UGDSB students, staff, parents/guardians and community members identify as members of the Rainbow or 2SLGBTQIA+ community.  Specifically during Pride Month in June, all schools in the UGDSB raise the Pride Flag to show our support and acceptance and to celebrate the 2SLGBTQIA+ community. Flying the Pride flag not only signals that our schools are committed to building safe spaces for everyone, it also aligns with our Vision Statement and Guiding Principles of Inclusion, Policy 503 and 504, the Ontario Human Rights Code, student and staff well-being and our UGDSB Equity Plan. In addition to Pride month, our school district is committed to supporting and celebrating the 2SLGBTQIA+ community throughout the whole year.

UGDSB Vision Statement:

Students will attain individual excellence through dynamic programming provided by an effective staff and supported by a committed community. We will meet our students’ diverse needs through the provision of equitable and accessible resources. Our learning environment will be characterized by empowered administrators, effective communication and mutual compassionate respect.

Guiding Principles – We believe that:

What are the protocols for flying flags in the UGDSB?

Flags at UGDSB school sites and board facilities are flown in accordance with Upper Grand District School Board Policy 310 and the Display of Flags Procedure Manual 310a.  This includes the flying of the Pride Flag and flying additional flags on the same flag pole as the Canadian flag. There is a common misconception that it is illegal for schools to fly additional flags on the same flag pole as the Canadian flag. However, the UGDSB policy and procedure is in alignment with the The National Flag of Canada Etiquette, which states, “The rules applied by the federal government are in no way mandatory for individuals or organizations; they may serve as guidelines for all persons who wish to display the National Flag of Canada and other flags in Canada.”

UGDSB Policy 310 – Display of Flags allows for the display of other flags under specific parameters. The information below and available at the following link explains the policy and processes related to the flying of flags in our board.

Policy Statement:

It is the policy of the Upper Grand District School Board to display flags with dignity and respect. This policy is aligned with and supports the principles and expectations of the Board’s policies for Safe Schools (503) and Equity and Inclusive Education (504). At all times, this policy shall be consistent with all UGDSB policies and the Ontario Human Rights Code.

Documents:

What if 2SLGBTQIA+ histories, identities and celebrations do not align with my personal values and beliefs?

In 2020, the UGDSB created the following commitment:

As an educational community we have a responsibility to identify and describe racism and oppression and then work to dismantle it. The Upper Grand District School Board is committed to disrupting systemic racism and oppression in all of its forms. We will implement ongoing mandatory anti-racism and anti-oppression training for all staff, review our protocols and policies, including our hiring practices, and be fully transparent and accountable to all Upper Grand students, staff, families, and stakeholders in an ongoing manner.

Our school district is dedicated to building understanding, safety, inclusion and joy of 2SLGBTQIA+ identity into all of our school and work communities.  Additionally, regardless of your personal values and beliefs, we all must follow the Ontario Human Rights Code that protects marginalized groups from discrimination and harassment. 

Additional Resources:

Who can we contact with questions?

Please contact your child’s school administrators with questions or concerns.

Resources