Kal Krause, left, and Ardin Brownlee hold a sign that says, “There’s a reason I didn’t tell my parents – respect my safety,” at a rally for gay-straight alliances at Red Deer City Hall Tuesday. Photo by SEAN MCINTOSH/Advocate staff

WATCH: Rallying for gay-straight alliances in Red Deer

A Lindsay Thurber Comprehensive High School graduate says high schools need gay-straight alliances, or queer-straight alliances.

Kal Krause, 19, who is now a student at Red Deer College, was one of the roughly 150 people attending a rally for GSAs/QSAs at Red Deer City Hall Tuesday evening.

“I’ve been a part of pride groups throughout most of my high school experience and I find it’s something a lot of kids need. I’ve seen kids find support, kids who would otherwise not have anyone to support them in their lives,” Krause said.

Krause said these alliances can be like a “second family” for students.

“A lot of younger kids don’t see them as often. I never saw one until I was in 10th grade and it was just a very small things where we had to lock the doors. I don’t think any kid should have to be afraid of the people in their school.”

Ardin Brownlee, 22, a Hunting Hills High School graduate, said GSAs/QSAs save lives.

“I was lucky and I had parents that supported me, but a lot of kids don’t. If they have a GSA or QSA to go to in high school it will help them feel more accepted and have a community to come back to when they can’t have a community in home,” said Brownlee.

The privacy of students in these alliances is important, Brownlee added.

A high school student “could come home and (their parent) could say, ‘Your school called today and said you were gay. Get out.’ I didn’t have to worry about that, but there are kids who do.

“If a kid chooses to tell their parents, it’s because they trust them. If they don’t tell them, obviously there’s a reason.”

Shay Vanderschaeghe, program co-ordinator for Haven, a program at Heritage Family Services that provides specialized care for youth who are gender diverse and cisgender youth who are sexually diverse, said these alliances create a space LGBTQ+ youth can be.

“Creating that space, and the research shows, that there is less violence, less bullying, less self-harm, less suicidal ideation, less suicide,” Vanderschaeghe said.

There are LGBTQ+ teachers and parents, as well.

“Creating safe space for the whole group of people is super important,” she said.

There were rallies held in Medicine Hat and Lethbridge Tuesday as well, which is the same day advance polling stations for the provincial election opened.

UCP leader Jason Kenney recently said his government would proclaim the former Progressive Conservative Education Act of 2014 to replace the NDP’s amended School Act.

The Education Act included a provision to allow gay-straight alliances — clubs meant to make LGBTQ kids feel safe and welcome — in schools if students wanted them. But the New Democrats said at the time there were some loopholes in the Tory legislation that some schools were using to delay or deny students trying to set up the clubs. That’s why the NDP amended the School Act to take protections for LGBTQ students further.

–With files from The Canadian Press

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Shay Vanderschaeghe speaks at a rally for gay-straight alliances at Red Deer City Hall Tuesday. Photo by SEAN MCINTOSH/Advocate staff

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