New leg­is­la­tion to sup­port gay-straight al­liances

The McLeod River Post - - News -

A pro­posed bill would make life bet­ter for stu­dents by en­sur­ing they can form gay-straight al­liances at school with­out fear of be­ing outed.

Min­is­ter Eggen and col­leagues meet with sup­port­ers of new leg­is­la­tion.

An Act to Pro­tect Gay Straight Al­liances would sup­port stu­dents who wish to cre­ate or join gaystraight and queer-straight al­liances (GSAs and QSAs) by en­sur­ing that ev­ery pub­licly funded school in Al­berta has a clear pol­icy al­low­ing them. Ev­ery stu­dent in Al­berta de­serves a school that is a wel­com­ing, car­ing and safe place to learn.

“Our top pri­or­ity is for all schools across Al­berta to be safe and wel­com­ing for all stu­dents, re­gard­less of their sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion, gender iden­tity or gender ex­pres­sion. Our gov­ern­ment’s leg­is­la­tion would en­sure just that. These amend­ments are in­tended to pro­vide clar­ity and con­sis­tency to sup­port stu­dents, fam­i­lies and school au­thor­i­ties.”

David Eggen, Min­is­ter of Ed­u­ca­tion

Pro­posed amend­ments to the School Act would:

• Re­quire all pub­licly funded schools to cre­ate wel­com­ing, car­ing and re­spect­ful poli­cies and make them pub­licly avail­able.

• Strengthen the min­is­ter’s abil­ity to en­sure ev­ery school com­plies with the law.

• Pro­tect the pri­vacy of stu­dents that join a GSA or QSA.

• Pro­tect the es­tab­lish­ment of GSAs from po­lit­i­cal in­ter­fer­ence.

• En­sure prin­ci­pals help stu­dents cre­ate a GSA or QSA in a timely man­ner.

“To me, the ex­is­tence of a GSA at school means that I am safe. It means that I am ac­cepted and that I am not alone. I am so grate­ful that this gov­ern­ment is mak­ing changes to en­sure that these spa­ces re­main safe for all stu­dents.”

Ace Peace, Grade 12 stu­dent

“As the par­ent of a trans child, I be­lieve that GSAs are es­sen­tial in cre­at­ing safe learn­ing en­vi­ron­ments for all stu­dents. I be­lieve they are in­cred­i­bly im­por­tant to the well-be­ing of LBGTQ2+ stu­dents, but per­haps equally im­por­tant in that they pro­vide spa­ces for al­lies to demon­strate their sup­port and de­sire to be a part of cre­at­ing pos­i­tive change.” Lind­say Peace, par­ent

“It is re­as­sur­ing to see a min­is­ter of ed­u­ca­tion take this re­spon­si­ble stand in sup­port­ing safe schools for all of Al­berta’s stu­dents. Ex­ten­sive re­search con­firms the many ben­e­fi­cial ef­fects of hav­ing a GSA in schools, not just for marginal­ized stu­dents, but for ev­ery­one in those schools. When stu­dents feel safe, they can achieve their fullest po­ten­tial both aca­dem­i­cally and per­son­ally.”

Dar­ren Lund, pro­fes­sor, Univer­sity of Cal­gary, and for­mer high school teacher

If passed, the amend­ments would come into force by April 1, 2018. School au­thor­i­ties will have un­til June 30, 2018 to make their safe and car­ing poli­cies pub­licly avail­able.

Quick facts

• These pro­posed amend­ments are in­tended to clar­ify and ex­pand on amend­ments made to the School Act in 2015.

• At that time, three new sec­tions were added to the School Act to in­clude:

o Re­spon­si­bil­i­ties for stu­dents, par­ents and school au­thor­i­ties as they re­late to wel­com­ing, car­ing, re­spect­ful and safe learn­ing en­vi­ron­ments.

o A re­quire­ment for school au­thor­i­ties to sup­port stu­dents in cre­at­ing and nam­ing stu­dent or­ga­ni­za­tions, in­clud­ing GSAs and QSAs.

o A re­quire­ment for school au­thor­i­ties to ad­dress bul­ly­ing by cre­at­ing and im­ple­ment­ing a pol­icy that in­cludes a stu­dent code of con­duct.

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