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CBE trustees approve new school renaming policy

The Calgary Board of Education board of trustees approved a school renaming policy following criticism from community groups over one school in particular.

The matter came to Tuesday’s regular CBE board of trustees meeting after public pressure around the renaming of the Langevin School. It was discussed as a part of the board’s governance culture and board responsibilities.

The decision would allow the board to consider renaming of a school if it met certain criteria.

In May, an estimated 215 children were found in a mass burial site at the Kamloops residential school.

Shortly after, the CBE changed the name of the Langevin School back to its original Riverside name. That ended a years-long struggle to have the school renamed.

Board chair Marilyn Dennis said that she’s proud of the reworked process and how trustees collaborated on its development.

“This was never about one school or one name but how we can consider all names,” she said.

“To provide a clear path which will see the process rooted in the voice of the public. This is something that will allow trustees to make well-informed, non-biased decisions.”

Adrian Stimson with the Reconciliation Action Group said the renaming fails to reflect a deep understanding of what reconciliation entails and that it lacks anti-oppression values.

“Students and countless supporters speak out without change and continue to be at risk for racism by the very institution that purports to be inclusive and promotes healthy relationships,” said Stimson.

The group wants all names to be removed that are tied to oppression of others. They want a transparent process and one that includes a Treaty 7 person as a stakeholder in renaming.

Planning a new policy

“It was a lot of tough work and we had some really challenging conversations to try and meet the obligation and expectations of the public, which is tricky,” said Bradshaw.

Trustee Mike Bradshaw said that the best way to get involved in the renaming process of a school is to get in contact with the school’s respective trustee. They’re the ones that can trigger the process of renaming a school.

The policy does state that a petition can also be used to trigger a name change. That petition would require as many as 5,000 signatures.

The board responsibilities were approved. With the upcoming October municipal election, trustees wanted to complete the policy now instead of leaving it for a new board.

Trustee Trina Hurdman, who won’t be running in the upcoming election, said it was best to conclude the matter now.

“By bringing any substantial policy changes before the election we are making it an election issue. I want us to clean up our policies right now to put the future board in the best place possible,” said Hurdman.

Note: At the time of publishing, trustees had approved the responsibilities, but hadn’t yet approved the terms of reference that reiterate the role.