Teachers’ Federation worried about impact new pronoun policy will have on students and teachers

The Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation says what should be an exciting time as teachers and students get ready to head back to school has been overshadowed by the Government of Saskatchewan’s prounon policy.

Samantha Becotte, the president of STF, said they have significant concerns about the new policy.

“It puts teachers in a really difficult position of having to follow a directive set out by the Government or ultimately uphold students’ human rights. At the core of this, we want to ensure all of our students are safe and cared for.”

She noted that it’s not just teachers that have concerns.

“We are not alone in that. We’re hearing the same message coming from many school divisions across the province, and the Saskatchewan school board has called for a pause on the implementation of that policy.”

Becotte made STF’s stance on the policy clear.

“Students have the right to identify, they have the right to come into a safe and caring learning environment, and really that’s what we’re looking for here from the Teachers’ Federation perspective.”

“Aside from the student concerns and the impact that is going to have on a very vulnerable group of students, we also have concerns about how this message is portraying teachers,” she continued. “We know that teachers do their best to involve parents already in conversation while protecting student privacy and ensuring students are safe in this situation.”

Becotte said she feels that teachers have been painted in a bad light throughout the policy announcement.

“The underlying message in some of the decisions that are coming out is that teachers aren’t professional, that teachers aren’t choosing age-appropriate resources. There have been very isolated incidents that occurred with third parties, but to make a blanket statement across the entire province is a very political decision.”

She said that the Government has disseminated a misleading message about teachers not engaging parents in the conversation.

“I’ve heard from a lot of teachers who say they want to include teachers or they want to include parents and education. I think some of that is from the misleading aspect of what this policy is actually going to look like when it is applied in schools, what the end result is going to be, and what the intent is.”

Becotte said everyone should feel safe in Saskatchewan schools, including gender-diverse students and teachers.

“Our number one priority as a federation is teachers. We want to make sure that they are supported as well. It’s the underlying message that comes with some of these changes that are harmful to just students, but teachers as well.” she said. “Hopefully, through the advocacy that we’ve done, our teachers are feeling supported.

“We just want to ensure that schools are safe environments for all people to be welcomed, whether they are students, teachers, or educational staff coming into schools.”

Since the announcement of the policy, legal challenges have already been made against Scott Moe and the Sask. Party government, including UR Pride which received the support of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

While Becotte said they are against the policy, they hope legal action isn’t needed.

“I don’t think that a legal challenge is the best way,” she said. “Hopefully, we can work together and get this new change to a place where we’re all students are safe and supported without having to go that route.”

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