New GSA legislation will open up discussions

New legislation allowing all students access to gay-straight alliances could open up discussions for the Red Deer Catholic Regional School District and other districts throughout the province.

New legislation allowing all students access to gay-straight alliances could open up discussions for the Red Deer Catholic Regional School District and other districts throughout the province.

Amendments to the Alberta government gay-straight alliance related legislation, Bill 10, proposed on Tuesday would enable all students to form a gay-straight alliance club. The amendment includes children in all Alberta schools — public, Catholic, private and charter.

Guy Pelletier, chair of the Red Deer Catholic Regional School District board, said on Tuesday that the school board has always strived facilitate inclusiveness and would abide by the legislation, should it be approved.

“We’ve had a commitment to safe and caring schools and inclusive environments, have always had and will continue to have,” said Pelletier.

“I’m not sure the amendments change that approach, but it’s probably a good conversation to have to help us formalize our thinking on not only GSAs, in terms of forming those, but any type of student group.

“If there are student groups feeling marginalized or bullied, if there’s ways we can do more to help them, then we’re happy to do that.”

Specifically, the board will formalize its thinking on how GSAs are created and how the board can facilitate inclusiveness.

“It’s a good chance to talk about the issues and make sure our students are supported,” said Pelletier.

The Red Deer Public School District is in the process of writing a formal policy that includes GSAs. The board directed administration to create comprehensive policy addressing the needs to sexual orientation and gender minorities.

On Tuesday, Alberta Education Minister Gordon Dirks announced an amendment to the bill that would allow students to establish GSAs in any Alberta school and members would be allowed to meet on school property.

The amendment replaces one proposed last fall that would have allowed GSAs off school grounds.

The alliances are peer-support groups for gay students that are meant to make them feel welcome and prevent them from being bullied.

A study by the University of British Columbia in 2008 showed that the odds of teens having suicidal thoughts are reduced by half in schools that have such groups in place.

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