Alberta Education Minister David Eggen arrives for a cabinet meeting. Alberta is proposing new legislation to ensure that students who join gay-straight alliances in school are not outed without their permission. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Gay-straight alliance bill draws praise from Central Albertans

The NDP’s opening salvo to their new opposition adversary targeted a social conservative policy new United Conservative Party leader Jason Kenney outlined during his campaign.

And for one young conservative, it was the kind of policy that doesn’t sit well with her and some of her peers.

Austin Siebold, a Grade 11 student in Bentley, considers herself a conservative and is open about being gay. But proposals such as schools notifying parents if their child joins a Gay Straight Alliance concern her. In general, Siebold believes in small government.

“When the government creates a bill that tells principals what they can and can’t do in their schools, that’s a problem for me,” she said.

“I support the idea behind the (NDP’s) bill and believe Kenney was unfair in suggesting schools inform parents of student involvement.”

She said parental notification can be dangerous. Parents aren’t informed when students join other school clubs.

“It’s implying that it’s somehow different,” she said. “Parents aren’t abusive until they are, they can be perfectly fine and not harmful to their children until they find out the student is gay or believe they might be. That’s when they kick them out or start physically abusing them. That’s the danger there.”

Late last week, the NDP introduced a bill that would ensure every publicly funded in school has a clear policy allowing GSAs.

It also codifies the privacy of a student that joins a GSA or a Queer Straight Alliance, and prevents measures such as parental notification when a student joins such a school club. It would also strengthen the minister’s ability to ensure every school complies with the law, protect the establishment of GSAs from political interference and ensure principals help students create such an alliance in a timely manner.

“It’s reassuring to see a minister of education take this responsible stand in supporting safe schools for all of Alberta’s students,” said Darren Lund, a University of Calgary professor and former teacher at Lindsay Thurber High School.

“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 potential both academically and personally.”

Lund helped develop the first Gay Straight Alliance in Alberta in 2000 at Lindsay Thurber.

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