NDP concerned about potential changes to gay-straight alliances in new education bill

By Charles Lefebvre
June 5, 2019 - 5:09pm Updated: June 5, 2019 - 7:22pm

 

EDMONTON, AB — Rules around gay-straight alliances and queer-straight alliances in Alberta schools could change if a new bill introduced by the provincial government is passed.

Bill 8, the Education Amendment Act, was introduced Wednesday afternoon in the provincial legislature by the United Conservative Party. If passed, it will replace the School Act that’s currently in place with the Education Act, passed by the Progressive Conservative government in 2012, but never proclaimed as law.

“I am proud to say that through the Education Amendment Act, we are building a framework that puts the student first, and is accountable at the local level,” said Education Minister Ariana LaGrange during a news conference. “Ultimately, it will make a good system even better, and it will make sur eout students receive the excellent education all Albertans expect and deserve.”

The law features numerous amendments to provincial education, covering everything from school division rules to the number of charter schools allowed in Alberta.

However, the NDP opposition is concerned changes to rules around gay-straight alliances and queer-straight alliances, saying it will put LGBTQ+ students at risk.

Under the proposed changes, students can still request to form GSAs and QSAs at school, but principals no longer have to “immediately” permit the group from forming.

In order to create a GSA or QSA, students ask a staff liaison to create the group, and the principal would permit it, and group members would be able to come up with a name. If no staff liaison is available, the principal would inform both the school board and the Minister of Education to appoint a liaison.

The NDP says the changes would allow schools to delay allowing the groups to be created

The proposed bill would also remove amendments passed in 2017 (Bill 24) that made it illegal for school staff to tell parents if their children are members.

The province says the current privacy legislation, such as the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, and the Personal Information Protection Act, protects students. They add the only times school staff would disclose GSA membership is if a student is at risk of harm.

LaGrange says she has been in contact with multiple student groups, and says the proposed bill will help protect every student.

“What we are very clear on is we support every single student, and we are going to have the most comprehensive legislation that looks after every student, including GSA, QSA and all inclusion group formations,” she said.

If passed, the bill will come into effect on September 1.

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