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Comox Valley board of education approves new anti-discrimination policy

District staff will now be updating the details in the administrative procedures
School District 71 has released its new policy aimed at fighting discrimination. File photo

The board of education for School District 71 has established a new policy to combat all forms of discrimination.

Its policy committee has been working on the project for more than a year, primarily through an ad hoc committee headed by trustee Janice Caton.

At the Jan. 25 board meeting, the board as a whole voted to adopt the Equity and Non-Discrimination Policy, which sets out a goal of making the district “equitable for all and free of discrimination.”

The policy draws from the Canadian Humans Rights Act, B.C. Human Rights Code, the B.C. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act and the B.C. Multiculturalism Act as a foundation. The two-page document outlines discrimination, its forms, how it takes shape and the effects of it on people. It continues by reaffirming the district’s commitment to creating an inclusive environment and promoting diversity.

The document also stresses these efforts are the responsibility of everyone in the district and that people are to take an active part in the development of practices that promote fair and equitable treatment.

The final section lists board responsibilities under the policy, such as measures for codes of conduct, employment equity, educational equity and cross-cultural connections.

To produce the policy, the board set up the ad hoc committee in December 2020 with the goal of bringing the district policy’s language up to date. The committee came back in June 2021 with a draft of the new policy, which was then circulated to partners groups through the latter part of the year.

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“We are very grateful for the efforts of the special committee, education policy committee, district staff and many education partners who helped create this important policy for Comox Valley Schools,” said board chair Tonia Frawley said in a news release.

The document cites forms of discrimination such as racism, indigenized racism, misogyny and homophobia, but board member Sheila McDonnell asked for the word ‘sexism’ to be included as well.

One issue that came up through the consultation process was confusion around the policy and details that are found in other documents, specifically, the administrative procedures.

“The policy is the ‘what,’ and the administrative procedures is the ‘how’ the policy is executed,” policy committee chair Michelle Waite said at the meeting. “Not everybody understands that process.”

In the news release, superintendent Tom Demeo said the district will now work on new administrative procedures that determine how the policy is implemented throughout the district. As part of this, staff will use the feedback received from partners to establish the new procedures.

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