Tonight, I had the honour of speaking on behalf of Plan B KW at a meeting of the Waterloo Region District School Board. I urged them, in my speech below, to support the validation of our most vulnerable students by refusing to reprimand educators who use their professional knowledge to teach about consent, LGBTQ identity, and medical terms for their bodies. I’ve included my full remarks below.
My name is Samantha Estoesta, a soon-to-be-parent of a child who will attend Suddaby Public School. I also was an attendee at the previous meeting on Health Education and appreciate how quickly the Board has responded to this crucial issue and how the Board continues to work to support our students and educators..
Today, I am here as one of the founding organizers of Plan B KW, an organization in town that focuses on supporting and advocating for LGBTQ youth, particularly those at the margins of society such as those of low socioeconomic status, queer people of colour, and those with visible and invisible accessibility needs. Through our work, Plan B has advocated for this community at each of the Post-Secondary Institutions in Waterloo Region, as a member of the City of Cambridge’s Diversity & Inclusion Steering Committee, and a variety of other conferences and gatherings. We are proud to be one of the few organizations that not just advocates on behalf of the queer community as a whole but does specific and detailed advocacy for the particular needs of queer people of colour, inclusive of immigrants and refugees. We proudly are the premier QPOC organization in Waterloo Region and use our organization to talk about key issues such as anti-blackness and Indigenous-Settler relations within the LGBTQ community. Another key aspect of our work is sourcing and providing gender-affirming clothing, be it sourcing significantly discounted or free Binders for Trans folks or offering free clothing and sanitized makeup in our regular clothing swaps. The vast majority of our attendees and organizers are youth still in school, with many of the organizers still or just barely removed from the educational system.
Delegations from the last meeting have already made it clear why the 2015 Health Education Curriculum is critical and life-saving for our most vulnerable students; I’m sure the delegations after me will continue to share these important stories. I am not here to speak on why you should advocate for the continuation of the usage of the 2015 curriculum. Instead, I come to you as someone with extensive experience in the creation of bylaws and policies that centre on diversity and inclusion, particularly in educational environments.
I have read through all of the applicable legislation, bylaws and policies regarding the professional standards demanded of teachers, the responsibilities of school boards, and the rights of our students, inclusive of Ontario College of Teachers Act and the Education Act.
As Waterloo Region District School Board is well aware, there are two key governing documents that are crucial for this conversation:
The Safe School Act, particularly Policy Memorandum No. 128 regarding The School Board Codes of Conduct, and The Ontario College of Teachers Bylaws Section 32 – Professional and Ethical Standards.
As the public may not be aware, Policy Memorandum No. 128 clearly outlines that all members of the school community must:
- respect and comply with all applicable federal, provincial, and municipal laws;
demonstrate honesty and integrity;
- respect differences in people, their ideas, and their opinions;
- treat one another with dignity and respect at all times, and especially when there is disagreement;
- respect and treat others fairly, regardless of, for example, race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, religion, gender, sexual orientation, age, or disability;
- respect the rights of others;
School boards provide direction to their schools to ensure opportunity, academic excellence, and accountability in the education system. It is the responsibility of school boards to:
- develop policies that set out how their schools will implement and enforce the provincial Code of Conduct and all other rules that they develop that are related to the provincial standards that promote and support respect, civility, responsible citizenship, and safety;
And, again for the public, the Ontario College of Teachers Bylaws Section 32 – Professional and Ethical Standards states that the following are hereby prescribed as standards of practice for the teaching profession:
- Commitment to Students and Student Learning
Members are dedicated in their care and commitment to students. They treat students equitably and with respect and are sensitive to factors that influence individual student learning. Members facilitate the development of students as contributing citizens of Canadian society.
- Professional Knowledge
Members strive to be current in their professional knowledge and recognize its relationship to practice. They understand and reflect on student development, learning theory, pedagogy, curriculum, ethics, educational research and related policies and legislation to inform professional judgment in practice.
- Professional Practice
Members apply professional knowledge and experience to promote student learning. They use appropriate pedagogy, assessment and evaluation, resources and technology in planning for and responding to the needs of individual students and learning communities. Members refine their professional practice through ongoing inquiry, dialogue and reflection.
The following are hereby prescribed as the ethical standards for the teaching profession:
The ethical standard of Care includes compassion, acceptance, interest and insight for developing students’ potential. Members express their commitment to students’ well being and learning through positive influence, professional judgment and empathy in practice.
Intrinsic to the ethical standard of Respect are trust and fair-mindedness. Members honour human dignity, emotional wellness and cognitive development. In their professional practice, they model respect for spiritual and cultural values, social justice, confidentiality, freedom, democracy and the environment.
Crucially, the Communications Office for the Ontario College of Teachers released a statement to Maclean’s stating that, “If a teacher flat-out refuses to deliver the required program to students, the responsibility is on the employer—in this case, the school board—to report the person to the OCT.”
I beg of the Board to consider having a motion that not only supports our most vulnerable students, but our educators. I urge you all to create one that contains the following elements:
That Waterloo Region District School Board, in accordance with The Safe Schools Act, The Education Act, and The Ontario College of Teachers Bylaws, will:
- Will develop a clear and actionable policy, in accordance with The Safe Schools Act and in cooperation with our educators and educational communities, that ensures that educators who teach all applicable Health Education Curriculum that involve current federal, provincial and municipal laws, inclusive of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression, as per the Canadian Human Rights Act section 2 and 3, and consent and the numerous ways it can be given, as per the Canadian Criminal Code section 153, are protected from professional reprimand and persecution;
- Defer to the judgement of our educators, in accordance of the Section 32 of the Ontario College of Teachers Bylaws, in regards to teaching the 2015 Health Education Curriculum instead of the 1998 Health Education Curriculum;
- Refuse to report any educators to the Ontario College of Teachers who decline to deliver the 1998 Health Education Curriculum as per their professional and ethical judgement as stated in Section 32 of the Ontario College of Teachers Bylaws.
A snitch line has already been created by the current provincial government and the Ministry of Education; it will be weaponized by those who are unreceptive to the academic, medical and professional expertise behind the 2015 Health Education Curriculum. It is the duty of the Waterloo Region District School Board to use its power to protect its students and educators.