Lesbian, gay, transgendered and queer students in Alberta have become a lightning rod for political parties in the legislative assembly after a bill introduced last month called for a clear policy on gaystraight alliances (GSA) across Alberta’s school boards.
The Safe and Inclusive Schools Statutes Amendment Act, (Bill 202) was introduced by Laurie Blakeman, Liberal MLA for Edmonton-Centre.
In the Lloydminster region, the two school boards that operate in and around the Border City, on the Alberta side, currently have no gaystraight alliances operating in them.
Buffalo Trail Public Schools superintendent Bob Allen said while the school division has no policy on the issue of GSA, the school board does have policies in place to keep the schools safe for all students and teachers.
“We currently don’t have a specific policy on the issue of GSA. We do though have policies on student conduct and behaviour to others,” he said.
“The whole idea is that we have developed a position, and given certain circumstances, things might change, and with this legislation it may. We expect all of our children to be respected with dignity.”
Asked if there were any GSAs operating within the school division, Allen said that he gave information to the Ministry of Education that stated that as of today there are no GSAs operating.
“At this point in time, if a student was interested in starting a GSA, the policy doesn’t provide clear direction on that, and I think that Bill 202 would provide the necessity of direction on that,” he said.
“If any student, or students, who wants to start a club, there isn’t anything in the policy that would deny that.”
Allen added that the school board is there to provide a safe environment for all of its students.
Todd Robinson, Lloydminster Public School Division (LPSD) director of education, said in a prepared statement that the school board has no GSAs operating within the school division.
“As of yet, the LPSD does not have a gay-straight alliance club in any of its schools, but that isn’t to say such a group wouldn’t be established if students expressed interest in the development of one,” he said.
“This is something the LPSD board of education has discussed in the past and will continue to talk about moving forward with the goal of having a division-wide policy or procedure relating to the rights of all students, regardless of their gender or sexual orientation.
“LPSD believes in the safety and security of all students and that all students should feel included and valued in our schools.”
LPSD has schools in Alberta, but operates under the Saskatchewan Ministry of Education.
In her introduction of the bill on Nov. 20, Blakeman said, “This bill proposes three small additions to the Education Act and one deletion from the Human Rights Act. It deletes section 11.1 from the Human Rights Act but strengthens and widens section 58 of the Education Act, which is the existing parental optout section for religion and patriotic exercise, by adding in sexual health. Parents can still opt their kids out if they don’t want their kids in sex ed.
“In the Education Act’s section 33(2) on welcoming, caring, and safe environments to reduce bullying, it adds in that the policy must accommodate students who want to lead organizations that are gay-straight alliances, and they may call them by that name.”
Premier Jim Prentice said in a new conference last week that Bill 202 divides the province in either supporting GSA or not supporting GSA.
“Bill 202 asks us to cast aside our constituents’ beliefs in parental rights, and in the autonomy of school boards, in order to support GSA’s.” Prentice has aimed toward introducing a bill that will, according to him, be a fair and balance solution to the Liberals’ proposal towards GSA.