Lyra Evans will be sworn in as the Rideau-Vanier and Capital school board trustee on Dec. 3, 2018. Photo: Robyn Thane.
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Lyra Evans believed to be Canada’s first openly trans trustee, seeks sex-ed reform

Lyra Evans, incoming Rideau-Vanier and Capital school board trustee, says electing the first openly transgender school trustee should not have taken so long.

On Oct. 22 Evans, a U of O chemistry student, became the first openly transgender person believed to be elected as school board trustee in Canada. Evans will represent ward 9 of the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB), and won with 55 per cent of the vote.

On being the first, Evans said “it shouldn’t have had to been me.”

“I am disappointed because it reminds me of the AIDS crisis and a generation of people who would have died due to government inaction. Those people would have been 40 or 50, the age where most people are elected school board trustees, and they should have been the first.”

But Evans said she is also honoured to be school trustee, because it shows society’s willingness to look past biases and instead look at policy.

One policy concern Evans has is restoring the 2015 sex-ed curriculum.

In July of this year, Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced a return to a 1990s version of the sex-ed curriculum, which does not address issues like sexual orientation, gender identity, and cyberbullying.

The curriculum change is the reason Evans decided to run for school trustee after losing as Ottawa-Vanier’s NDP candidate in the provincial election.

Sex-ed curriculum was also the number one issue at the door, said Evans. Ottawa residents appeared angry and frustrated about Ford’s decision, she said.

“Right now the school board is looking at what can be done and what we can do to protect our teachers,” said Evans.

“I would like to see the OCDSB create a policy that says we can lobby the provincial government, or attempt to convince the provincial government, to perhaps reconsider their decision about repealing the 2015 sex-ed curriculum.”

Another area Evans wants to look at is encouraging green policies in schools. She says her background in chemistry informs her concern for the environment.

“As a believer in science—as someone who understands the damage we are doing to the environment; I take that with me,” she said. “I try very hard to limit my carbon footprint; I try very hard to encourage others to do the same.”

Some ways to do that, Evans suggests, is to build more local schools so students can walk instead of using buses. Other options include installing light-reflecting glass to reduce air-conditioning use, as well as solar panels.

On childcare, the OCDSB currently offers an Extended Day Program. Though the program runs from 7 a.m. to  6 p.m., Evans says parents often drop their children off early or late because of the ever-changing nature of the workforce.

“Making sure that those programs are accessible, and that there are enough spots, and making sure that people can afford to get them is something that’s important to me,” said Evans.

But, the work doesn’t stop at the sex-ed curriculum, environmental sustainability, and childcare.

School board trustees represent the educational concerns of the local community, create policy for the OCDSB, and inform the final word on appeals, including teacher and principal complaints.

“School board elections matter more than people think,” said Evans. “I want to encourage university students to vote in every election that they get the opportunity to.”

Evans will be sworn in as the Rideau-Vanier and Capital school board trustee on Dec. 3, 2018.