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VANCOUVER, B.C. – Students that identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer will now be included with other groups in anti-bullying policies in school districts and independent schools province-wide.

Education Minister Mike Bernier announced today that explicit references to sexual orientation and gender identity are being added to the policies that private and public schools are required to have in place.

These changes will bring district school policies in line with amendments made to the B.C. Human Rights Code back in July that included gender identity and expression as prohibited forms of discrimination. According to statistics, five percent of the student population identifies as LGBTQ.

“All of B.C.’s schools need to be welcoming and safe places free of bullying,” said Bernier. “We owe it to our children to make sure they know that there are no reasons they should be bullied – and including sexual orientation and gender identity in anti-bullying policies makes that crystal clear.”

Bernier added that while many districts and independent schools already include sexual orientation and gender identity in their anti-bullying policies, today’s announcement extends those to all of them. According to an Egale survey in 2011, 64 percent of LGBTQ students feel unsafe at school.

Peace River North School District Superintendent Dave Sloan says that SD60 is one of those districts that already have these policies in place. SD60 board policy #2006 says that the Code of Conduct “promotes the values expressed in the BC Human Rights code respecting the rights of all individuals in accordance with the law. The school district will treat seriously, behaviour or communication that discriminates based on race, colour, ancestry, place of origin, religion, marital status, family status, physical or mental disability, gender, sexual orientation or age.” Sloan says that the policy was adopted in February 2014.

All public school boards are required to have codes of conduct in their schools to address bullying by articulating the prohibited grounds of discrimination as set out in the British Columbia Human Rights Code, along with acceptable and unacceptable behaviours, and their consequences.

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