Palliser seeks to address language at faith-based schools

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The Board of Trustees of Palliser Regional Schools convened a special meeting Monday night to discuss concerns about discriminatory language in documents outlining the expectations of staff and students at faith-based alternative schools operating in the division.

Trustees reviewed language in its agreements with its seven society partners at its faith-based schools, including Heritage Christian Academy.

The Palliser Board of Trustees will seek a meeting as soon as possible with the board of Heritage Christian Education Society Calgary to arrive at language that will be aligned with Alberta’s Human Rights Act.

“We are concerned that the tone of some of the language marginalizes students or staff on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity,” said Chair Colleen Deitz. “We have made strides working with our society partners to improve the language in our documents, but we are still not where we want to be.”

Deitz said Palliser’s policies and procedures are unequivocal about respect for every individual, and the division’s board and staff have complied with human rights law in its actions and practices. No student has been denied opportunity to start a gay straight alliance at school. No student has been disciplined or expelled over sexual orientation or gender identity, nor have any staff been dismissed over the same.

While the Board of Trustees will begin the process of addressing the issue with the society at Heritage Christian Academy, it will seek similar meetings with its other society partners to ensure documents at other faith-based schools are also inclusive.

“Palliser remains firmly committed to our values of respect for all individuals, of respect for parent choice in the education of their children, and of respect for the public school system as the best place for all students,” she said.

“In our diverse society, we often are faced with competing values, in this case, freedom of religion versus respect for individual human rights. The professionals in our schools help students daily to navigate competing values and individual differences with respect and dignity. This is the great strength of the public school system.”

Palliser’s faith-based and community schools alike are committed to providing students safe and caring learning environments.