GSAs: know the facts

As the debate around GSAs or gay straight alliances and parental notification of when a child joins a GSA continues to swirl in this provincial election I am reminded of individual conversations I have had with students, parents, teachers and constituents around this important topic.

  • I think of the two women who when I knocked on their door in the municipal election in 2017 asked me whether I supported parental notification when a student joins a GSA. When I said I believe a student should decide when and if to tell their parent that they’ve a joined a GSA, they hugged me with tears in their eyes.
  • I think of the parent who recently shared with me the support she’s received from staff, students and the parent community as her child explores their gender in a safe space within one of our schools.
  • I think of the brave students who marched alongside Trustees during last year’s Pride parade declaring their support for Bill 24, an Act to support GSAs
  • I think of the stories of kids who say a GSA has saved their life and the sentiment that a GSA provided support and friendship when they needed it most.
  • I think of teachers who work hard in our schools every day and how so many of them put the health and well being of their students at the forefront of what they care about. The teachers I have spoken with do not want the responsibility, nor do they feel it is their place to inform parents that a child has joined a GSA.

Most of all, I think of the kids who are currently part of GSAs across our district and our province who have decided that right now, for whatever reason, not to tell their parents that they’ve joined a club at school.

The evidence is clear. GSAs save lives.

And while I’m encouraged to hear UCP leader Jason Kenney say he supports GSAs the extra bit that’s missing is that he supports the right for all students in all schools in Alberta to join a GSA and then choose how, when and if they tell their parents (or anyone else for that matter) that they have joined a school club. Kenney says it should be up to teachers to decide what’s in the best interest of a child and would not make notification that a child has joined a GSA mandatory. The Alberta teachers association disagrees and has come out in support of the current legislation banning parental notification.

I am a parent and I hear a lot how parents should to be more involved in decisions made within our schools. I agree. And that’s why I encourage parents to join school councils and to research candidates running for the position of school board trustee. To parents who say that Bill 24 is infringing on their rights to know what’s happening in schools with their children, I say – well ask them. Ask them if their school has a GSA? Start the conversation and ask yourself have I created a space that if my child is lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, queer or trans that they can tell me?

There’s been a lot written on GSAs, specifically around parental notification. I encourage you to listen to this podcast featuring Edmonton Journal education reporter Janet French to get all the details and facts.

Trustee Shelagh Dunn, Ward C and myself at Pride Parade 2018.

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