Monday, 11 December 2017 05:33

Gay-straight alliances set to be officially protected in southwest school divisions

Written by  Demi Knight
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A new legislation was officially put into place this November to support gay-straight alliances in publicly funded schools across Alberta.

The implementation of Bill 24, passed by Rachel Notley’s government this November, works to clarify and expand on amendments made to the School Act back in 2015. This passing of this bill will ultimately work to protect and support the creation or joining of gay-straight and queer-straight alliances by ensuring public institutions across the province have a clear policy allowing them within the facilities.
With the Bill officially being passed on Nov. 15, amendments made to the to the School Act to further protect gay-straight and queer-straight alliances will come into force by Apr. 1, 2018 with school authorities having until Jun. 30 of next year to make their safe and caring policies for these alliances available to the public.
“Our top priority is for all schools across Alberta to be safe and welcoming for all students, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression,” says Minister of Education, David Eggen of the newly passed bill.
With hopes to create a safer and more inclusive atmosphere within schools, the bill was passed in it’s third reading on Nov. 15 after several weeks of debates on the matter.
However, now passed, public school faculty and administrators are required to help create welcoming caring and respectful environments as well as protect the privacy of students who are wanting to join or are already a part of gay-straight and queer-straight alliances.
As the recently passed bill begins to take shape across the province, school division officials within southwest Alberta say they are ready to support or continue their current support of all students within there area.
“Not much will change within the Division,” says Communications/International Programs Coordinator for Livingstone Range School Division No. 68 (LRSD), Zyna Taylor. “LRSD has always had a safe, caring and welcoming school policy and procedure that ensured that all students were treated with dignity and respect. We expanded this procedure to meet the requirements of an earlier LGBTQ policy request as per a directive from Education Minister David Eggen last March.”
With strong support already in place for all students in the division, Taylor also added LRSD administrators are happy to comply with Bill 24 as it will only help to reinforce alliances and policies already in place across the region.
“In the Division, we believe it's important to have policies and procedures that ensure the wellbeing of all of our students, and our compliance with Bill 24 is just one more step to accomplishing this. LRSD supports the creation of school gay-straight alliances, with some of our schools having such groups before the previous legislation was introduced.”
The Palliser Regional School Division caters to many towns throughout southern Alberta including Picture Butte, Coaldale, Vulcan, Nobleford also shared their support for the newly implemented bill, as well as share their commitment to review policies currently in place to make sure they meet the requirements of said bill.
“We believe at this point that Palliser Regional Schools’ Policy 16, Safe and Caring Learning Environment, meets the requirements of Bill 24,” says superintendent of Palliser Regional School Division, Dave Driscoll. “We are, however, reviewing our policies and procedures in comparison to that bill and are preparing to make adjustments if necessary. We will gladly share that with the public when completed.”

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