The Simcoe County District School Board said it was considering hiring an LGBTQ+ graduation coach based on census data
Of the students who responded to the Simcoe County Public School Board Student Census last year, 2% identify as having a diverse gender identity, while 23% identify as members of the LGBTQ+ community.
Further reports were provided to administrators of the Simcoe County District School Board last week at the Program Standing Committee meeting on their first-ever student census. completed in April 2021. Nearly 27,000 students (51%) participated in the student census, which was conducted confidentially.
Students in grades K-6 had a parent/guardian participate in the census on their behalf, while students in grades 7-12 participated in the census themselves.
As part of the census, all participants were asked questions about gender identity. Students in grades 7 through 12 were asked questions about sexual orientation.
“I would like to thank Associate Director (of Education) Dawn Stephens for including a glossary of terms. I thought I was pretty knowledgeable, but apparently I’m not,” Barrie administrator Beth Mouratidis said at Wednesday’s meeting.
The gender identity question garnered responses from 26,649 participants.
The most frequently reported gender identities were girl/woman (50%), boy/man (49%) and a diverse gender identity (2%, or approximately 500 students).
For census and reporting purposes, the definition of gender diversity has been narrowed down to six gender identities: fluid, non-binary, transgender, transgender woman, transgender man, and two-spirit.
Of the 2% who identified as gender diverse, 52% were non-binary, 28% were fluid, 19% were transgender male, 11% were transgender, 5% were two-spirit, and 5% were transgender female.
There was also an open response option allowing students to enter their gender identity.
Of the approximately 500 students who reported a diverse gender identity, 62% were secondary school students and 38% elementary school students.
The Ontario Human Rights Code defines gender identity as “each person’s internal and individual experience of gender. It is their sense of being female, male, both, neither, or anywhere along the gender spectrum. A person’s gender identity can be the same as or different from their sex assigned at birth.
Students in grades 7-12 were also asked questions about their sexual orientation, garnering responses from 10,457 participants.
For census and reporting purposes, LGBTQ+ represents a combination of ten specific sexual orientations, including asexual, bisexual, demisexual, fluid, gay, lesbian, omnisexual, queer, questioning, and pansexual.
About 78% of students declared their sexual orientation as heterosexual/straight, while 23% declared their sexual orientation as LGBTQ+.
Among LGBTQ+ students, 44% identified as bisexual, 20% identified as asexual, 18% identified as questioning, 14% identified as pansexual, 9% identified as lesbian, 5% identified as identified as homosexual, 3% identified as fluid, and 1 percent each identified as queer, omnisexual, demisexual or another unlisted sexual orientation.
At Wednesday’s meeting, Collingwood/Wasaga Beach trustee Tanya Snell said she would be interested in a board-wide audit of LGBTQ+ clubs and safe spaces.
“I would like to see specifically which schools have a support club or some level of commitment…and which ones don’t, and if there is a plan where those who have successful programs, if they are ready to create a pathway or mentorship to help others on board,” Snell said.
Stephens said it’s not something the council is currently tracking, but with schools returning to face-to-face learning and clubs restarting, LGBTQ+ clubs will be one of them.
“We have safe spaces in all of our schools,” Stephens said.
New Tecumseth trustee Sarah Beitz asked how the council would use the information going forward.
“How will this help us better support our students? ” she asked.
Stephens said the council is considering a number of programs, including the possible hiring of an LGBTQ+ graduation coach.
“We will also look at the things (we can do) in our schools. For example, we have gender-neutral washrooms available for all students,” Stephens said.
Beitz pointed to previous board discussions where the idea of Grade 9 physical education programs, which are currently gender-segregated, could be incorporated.
“They’re working on that at the provincial level, so we’ll just wait and see,” Beitz said. “I think this report would support going in that direction.”
As defined in the Anti-Racism Act, public service bodies, which include Ontario school boards, are required and permitted to collect personal information related to programs, services and functions. This includes the collection of personal information related to Indigenous identity, race, religion, ethnic origin, gender identity and other demographic data.
According to the school board, throughout the 2021-2022 school year, other reports will be published periodically related to particular themes of the 2021 student census.