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N.B. Teachers’ Association never consulted on LGBTQ2 policy change, groups consider legal options

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The New Brunswick Teachers’ Association says despite being told it would be consulted on any changes to Policy 713, a policy that protects LGBTQ2 students, that never happened.

“We never received that invitation,” said NBTA president Connie Keating.

Keating’s comments come after a review of the policy which was implemented in August 2020, led to changes that would require parental consent for students under the age of 16 to go by a different name or pronoun – and if consent cannot be obtained, students would be required to work with professionals in the school system.

Advocates in the community and politicians say the change will force teachers to misgender and dead-name trans and non-binary students.

Keating adds it puts teachers – who are always considering the human rights of children first – in a very vulnerable position.

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“We have a lot of questions,” she said, adding that it isn’t clear whether there would be repercussions for teachers who choose not to follow the policy.

“The policy was rushed, there wasn’t other sets of eyes, like ours, to look through and ask questions so that there would be clarity,” she said in an interview Friday.

Keating also said the policy asks for the support of professionals within the education system, but many guidance counsellors are filling in the gaps left vacant by the teacher shortage – meaning supports just may not be available.

Pride in Education, a group that helped draft the original policy, said it will not accept the changes outlined in Policy 713 as “these changes will undoubtedly harm children.”

Gail Costello, who is the co-chair, said in a written statement that “despite this policy having a direct impact on the 2SLGBTQ+ community, no groups with expertise in the field of education and 2SLGBTQ+ research were invited to participate in this review.”

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She called to have new wording – “and consistent with their gender identity” – included in the section that deals with high school sport participation.

“The removal of the ‘Before contacting parents …’ section may embolden nonsupportive teachers to dead name students,” she said in her statement.

She also questioned the resources that would be needed to help students who are needing professional support outlined under the new changes.

Costello said the organization is also concerned about the shortage of professionals within the education system.

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The New Brunswick Union said it is prepared to file grievances for any members who feel they need to openly violate the new policy.

“It seems like the wants of the few, armed with misinformation and falsehoods, seem to have the ear of the premier and the education minister,” said NBU president Susie Proulx-Daigle.

Members of the union have already reached out to express concerns, including how they will be able to help students without the right resources.

“Where do they think these school professionals are coming from,” she said. “There is a waitlist of over two years to see a professional in the school system.”

The Civil Liberties Association has been watching the review and said the changes are concerning.

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“The Government of New Brunswick has demonstrated that it does not endeavour to protect the rights of women – and now children,” it said in a statement.

It said it will support any legal action by groups in New Brunswick and is looking at what it can do legally to further protect queer youth.

The association said this decision and change sets a dangerous precedent, potentially opening the door to others to create and implement anti-queer policies.

“We urge the Government of New Brunswick to immediately rescind their changes and consult with rights organizations about ways to protect 2SLGBTQI+ youth,” it said.