According to the policy, children are allowed to choose their gender, where the one the one assigned at birth and by biology is secondary, and educators must address students by the name that corresponds with their own gender identity. In addition, transgender students are allowed to use the washroom of their choice.
Vancouver School Board chair Patti Bacchus says the consultation process for this motion was unprecedented.
"We heard personal stories from families about how important it was for their children to be supported. We heard from youth that had not been supported in their experience and how difficult that was," said Bacchus.
"We heard research that tells us students who are transgender, who are not well supported, are at disproportionate risk of suicide, self harm and dropping out of school."
Bacchus also said the policy change was a necessary step forward as it would help fight the discrimination faced by transgender students.
"We need to do this," says Bacchus. "There's research that suggests when LGBT kids are supported at school, it actually lowers high-risk behaviours for all students."
However, critics argue that this new policy violates traditional values and undermines the rights of parents.
"[Students] chosen gender identity will be utilized whenever possible in school lists, but not in letters to parents," writes Susan Martinuk of the Calgary Herald.
"In other words, the school will actively encourage gender choices and then actively work to conceal such decisions from parents. Apparently, it's the school's right to encourage the choice and the student's right to make the choice, but it's not a parent's right to know."
Long-serving school trustees Ken Denike and Sophia Woo also voted against the measure and called for a delay to the planned revisions of the school board's gender identity policy. A week later, the Non-Partisan Association expelled Denike and Woo from its caucus saying they did not share the same level of "sensitivity and understanding" of these issues as the other members.
Martinuk warns parents that the school board's decision is worrisome as it indicates a severe lack of interest in student's well being.
"The dismissal of those who refuse to support this controversial (at best) policy speaks volumes about what lies ahead for any parents or students who believe that, for the vast majority, gender is a straightforward issue and that school administrators should have better ways to spend their time than coming up with divisive policies that encourage kids to question their identity or adopt a new one."
She cites a study conducted by Dr. Paul McHugh, a former psychiatrist-in-chief at Johns Hopkins Hospital (where sexual assignment surgery in the U.S. originated), which revealed that close to 80 per cent of the most identity-confused children will grow naturally into adult life if left untreated.
"This suggests that those with some or minimal confusion about identity will have an even higher percentage of resolving these issues without intervention.," she notes.
"So why is the Vancouver School Board so anxious to push kids with temporary questions or confusion into a choice that will dramatically (and probably negatively) impact their lives?"