School board to debate gay-straight alliances

The Red Deer Public School District board is set to debate how it addresses gay-straight alliances.

The Red Deer Public School District board is set to debate how it addresses gay-straight alliances.

“The board said to me earlier this year ‘We really want to have direct contact with our students,’ out of that came the student advisory committee and they on their own determined they want to talk to the board about GSAs,” said Piet Langstraat, Red Deer Public superintendent. “The local ATA comes to me and says ‘the board of trustees and you as superintendent need to consider GSAs.’

“It’s not as if these things were all planned to provide input into the board’s decision, but I’m happy they’re all occurring.”

Red Deer Public School District will debate a motion at an upcoming meeting about entrenching its own policy regarding gay-straight alliances. The board could become the sixth school district in Alberta to do so.

Langstraat said it is up to the board to determine how they will address the issue, perhaps through board policy or administrative procedure.

Kris Wells, an assistant professor and director of programs and services for the institute for sexual minorities studies and services at the University of Alberta, was invited to visit by the Alberta Teachers’ Association local 60’s diversity, equity and human rights group, which Patti Yackulic chairs.

“The reality we see in our schools is more youth coming out at younger and younger ages and wanting to create safe, respectful and inclusive environments, and to build the professional knowledge to best support a group of students who have traditionally been at risk in our school environments,” said Wells.

Wells was in Red Deer on Tuesday talking with members of the Red Deer Public administration, board, teachers and members of ATA local 60. He talked about the student experience, risks facing lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer students (LGBTQ), and how to reduce the risk from a staff and teacher perspective.

“We have five school boards in the province with stand-alone gender and sexual orientation policies,” said Wells. “As part of those policies are specific provisions to support GSAs.”

Everett Tetz, a member of the ATA’s provincial diversity, equity and human rights group, said they wanted to bring LGBTQ concerns to the forefront. And after discussions with Yackulic, the two approached Langstraat and started working on the issue in the SCHOOL district.

“Initially this was just bringing awareness to LGBTQ concerns,” said Tetz. “This happened to time with a political shift that is happening so everybody is aware of it. In my mind, there is a shift happening, a social and political shift. It’s really about us as a district looking at what side of the shift we want to be on.”

Tetz and Yackulic presented to the board on the issue last November. They are also scheduled to present to the district’s parent council.

The issue of GSAs and support for LGBTQ concerns in the public school district doesn’t just include students learning and discovering their own sexuality. It also includes children of gay couples.

“Now that we have same-sex marriages, we have kids of same-sex marriage couples in the schools,” said Yackulic. “Those kids are targeted because of their parents and that is so unusual.”

Students at Lindsay Thurber Comprehensive High School are attempting to form their own gay-straight alliance. Lindsay Thurber was the first in the province to form such a group in 2000, when a sub-group of the Students and Teachers Opposing Prejudice organization formed a gay-straight alliance.

“We have a responsibility to ensure we have a safe and caring environment for every student we serve and every staff member employed by us,” said Langstraat. “As we become more aware of the issue this segment of the population faces, we feel a compelling responsibility to respond. We’re just trying to figure out how best to respond.”

Langstraat said the work done on Tuesday to talk about GSAs and supporting LGBTQ and other at-risk students is being done in parallel with the board’s decision, regardless of the outcome.

“There are some really compelling statistics that don’t only apply to Red Deer Public, but apply to the city and globally,” said Langstraat, pointing to studies that show LGBTQ youth have a higher risk of not completing high school, drug abuse, homelessness and suicide.

“We hope the board will establish some policies similar to Edmonton Public,” said Yackulic.

The Edmonton Public School District was the first to adopt such a policy. It very clearly supports students who want to start a GSA. There are more 20 GSAs in the district.

mcrawford@bprda.wpengine.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

File photo
Gov’t of Alberta identifies estimated 300 new COVID-19 cases Sunday

Online COVID-19 dashboard unavailable as upgrades being completed

The Central Alberta Freestyle Ski Club is hoping to win $50,000 through the Mackenzie Investments Top Peak contest. (Contributed photo)
Central Alberta ski club trying to win $50K in online contest

A central Alberta ski club has entered a contest where it can… Continue reading

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Red Deer dips below 300 active COVID-19 cases

The number of active COVID-19 cases in Red Deer continued to drop… Continue reading

Ben King scores for the Red Deer Rebels during the third period of a Western Hockey League game against the Calgary Hitmen at the Westerner Park Centrium Saturday. (Photo by Rob Wallator/Red Deer Rebels)
Rebels complete comeback to pick up first win of season

Rebels 3 Hitmen 2 (OT) The Red Deer Rebels were able to… Continue reading

Minister of National Defence Harjit Sajjan takes part in a year-end interview with The Canadian Press at National Defence Headquarters in Ottawa on December 17, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Conservatives to call top Sajjan, Trudeau aides to testify on Vance allegations

OTTAWA — The federal Conservatives plan to summon two senior Liberal aides… Continue reading

Elvira D'Angelo, 92, waits to receive her COVID-19 vaccination shot at a clinic in Montreal, Sunday, March 7, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
‘It’s been a good week’: Tam hopeful on vaccines as pandemic anniversary nears

Several provinces were preparing to loosen COVID-19 restrictions on Sunday, as Canada’s… Continue reading

Mount Pearl Senior High in Mount Pearl, N.L., remains closed on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. The provincial health authority says there were 185 cases at 22 schools, including 145 infections among staff and students of one high school in Mount Pearl that was an early epicentre of the outbreak. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Daly
In Newfoundland and Labrador, three ingredients made for explosive COVID-19 outbreak

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — With her classes, three part-time jobs and a… Continue reading

A passenger places a tag on luggage at the departure terminal at Toronto Pearson Airport, in Mississauga, Ont., Friday, May 24, 2019. The economic and life disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted many recent immigrants to leave Canada and return to their countries of origin, where they have more social and familial connections. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
COVID-19 pandemic prompts recent newcomers to leave Canada for their home countries

OTTAWA — The economic and life disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic… Continue reading

Rail cars wait for pickup in Winnipeg, Sunday, March 23, 2014. The fierce debate over cross-border pipelines is putting more Canadian oil and gas on trains destined for the United States — a country experts fear is ill-equipped for the potential consequences. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods
As debate rages over cross-border pipelines, U.S. analysts brace for more oil by rail

WASHINGTON — The fierce debate over cross-border pipelines is putting more Canadian… Continue reading

Pictures and notes in from friends and classmates make up a memorial in support and memory of Aubrey Berry, 4, and her sister Chloe, 6, during a vigil held at Willows Beach in Oak Bay, B.C., on December 30, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Mother of slain daughters supports recent changes to Canada’s Divorce Act

VICTORIA — Legal experts and a mother whose ex-partner was convicted of… Continue reading

Radio and television personality Dick Smyth is shown in an undated handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO
Dick Smyth, Canadian maestro of news radio commentary, dies at 86

TORONTO — Radio and television personality Dick Smyth, whose booming commentary filled… Continue reading

Walter Gretzky father of hockey hall-of-famer Wayne Gretzky waves to fans as the Buffalo Sabres play against the Toronto Maple Leafs during third period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Tuesday, January 17, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Funeral for Walter Gretzky to be held Saturday in home town of Brantford, Ont.

The funeral for hockey legend Wayne Gretzky’s father Walter will take place… Continue reading

Most Read