Welcoming, caring, respectful and safe schools are guaranteed to Alberta students through the School Act. The Alberta Teachers’ Association and Alberta Education, along with several other educational stakeholders, knew that this could not be achieved without intentional, concerted efforts by all those in the school community. Thus, the Respectful Schools Online Toolkit was born.
In the toolkit, users will find information relevant to three different groups; Teachers and Principals, Parents and Communities, and Educational Leaders. It was found, through public consultation, that there needed to be greater understanding about not only the issues themselves but how they are taught by all those in our schools and communities at large. Therefore, each section contains research, resources, and other content that is pertinent to each user group. That way, discussions about human rights and social justice can take place at the dinner table, in the classroom, and in the boardroom. To that end, a Common Language Guide and Guiding Principles were developed to support the work at all levels from a common framework. Concepts explored in the guide include understanding the difference between equality and equity, exploring privilege, what is meant by Intersectionality, and how these concepts work together to advance welcoming, caring, respectful and safe schools for all.
While there are significant resources for all users about Human Rights Education specifically, the bulk of the Toolkit focuses on connecting users to timely, relevant, and vetted information and resources to foster dialogue about vulnerable groups. According to human rights literature, there are particular groups who, for various reasons, are vulnerable or have traditionally been victims of human rights violations and consequently require special protection for the equal and effective enjoyment of their human rights. They are groups that have been historically and structurally discriminated against. The Respectful Schools Online Toolkit identifies eight vulnerable groups within the Alberta context:
- Children and Youth
- Cultural, Religious and Racialized Minorities
- Financially Insecure
- First Nations, Métis and Inuit Peoples
- Newcomers and Refugees
- People with Disabilities
- Sexual and Gender Minorities
- Women and Girls
Each vulnerable group page contains legislation, background information (including statistics, demographics and other research), and government bodies dedicated to serving that group. These are followed by resources and reading for each user group, including international, national, provincial and regional organizations that can be accessed for further support and information.
The Respectful Schools Online Toolkit aims to equip Albertans with the tools to build schools and communities that are welcoming, caring, respectful and safe. It emphasizes that moving forward in an increasingly diverse province depends on collaborative work by all Albertans. This happens by honouring diversity so we can build cultures of dignity and respect for all people, through challenging oppression and strengthening positive relationships in our schools and communities.
Jessica Scalzo is currently the chair of the Diversity, Equity and Human Rights Committee for Parkland Teachers Local #10 of the Alberta Teachers’ Association and the contract writer of the Respectful Schools Online Toolkit.