MEDICINE HAT, AB – The provincial government is doubling down on efforts to maintain privacy in gay-straight alliances (GSAs).
Last week, Education Minister David Eggen announced he’ll be introducing legislation to make it illegal to out students participating in GSAs.
Visiting Medicine Hat to help open a pair of schools on Wednesday, Eggen said SD76 has taken the lead on GSA initiatives.
“Very proud of our school boards and how they stood up for safe and caring environments for all students here in Medicine Hat.”
The move is drawing applause from SD76’s current board members, with incumbent trustee Terry Riley saying it’s important to respect students’ privacy.
“No one knows better than the kid, whether revealing information to the parents will harm the kid,” said Riley. “We've seen rare examples of parents doing great damage to their kids.”
According to board chair Rick Massini, it should be up to the students to decide when and if they’re ready to publicly come out.
“It's not our story to tell, it's the student's story to tell,” said Massini. “But, we want to make sure that we put the proper supports and assistance around that student, and that student is ready to tell their story.”
Trustee candidate and Concerned Parents of SD76 member Jeremy Williamson has made parental rights in schools a large part of his campaign, however for the second time in two weeks he declined an on-camera interview.
He also stated, “I will not be giving any new statements unless new information has come out.”
Meanwhile, Eggen had some harsh words for United Conservative Party leadership candidate Jason Kenney, after Kenney stated last month that “parents have a right to know” when their child is associated with a gay-straight alliance.
“It was a couple steps backwards for sure, GSAs are a safe place for very vulnerable students,” he said. “And so, his suggestion that he would out students that join GSAs really helped to precipitate me to choose to make that illegal.”
Eggen said the Concerned Parents of SD76 aren’t the only group to oppose the changes, but added school boards must follow provincial statutes after they’re passed.
“As part of the new legislation, we will look at sanctions,” said Massini. “If the boards are not fulfilling their responsibility to create a safe environment for students, then I have a number of mechanisms at my disposal.”
According to Eggen, the new legislation will be tabled in Edmonton sometime in the fall.
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