January 23rd, 2018

Firm lines, not wishful thinking, needed on GSAs

By Letter to the Editor on December 20, 2017.

The affirmation of who is valued in society rains imminently down upon children and youth who reap the prejudice sown by our heteronormative adult community members. By preventing youth and children from accessing gay-straight alliances (GSAs) in a safe and anonymous way they are being told adults do not value their right as citizens to develop and express their own sense of self, and do not value their right to choose their friends or their associates and join and set up groups. Furthermore, and of deep significance, children and youth would be encouraged to believe that the adults in their lives do not acknowledge, support or value their right to self-advocacy and citizenship. These aforementioned rights, as outlined by the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child (1989, ratified by Canada in 1991), highlight the ways which we as a community are failing our LGBTQ+ youth, children and members by denying safe and secure access to GSAs and the network of support they offer by devaluing their citizenship.

One issue brought forward by both Concerned Parents of School Division No. 76 and UCP Leader Jason Kenney suggested that it could be permissible that “at-risk kids” could be protected under special circumstance, leaving this sensitive and possibly life-changing decision to the discretion of a few teachers. This is an incredible and unrealistic amount of responsibility to place on those teachers as the private values and beliefs of our community members, including the parents of participating GSA children, are not always publicly known. It is very possible that children and youth may be physically or emotionally harmed, or forced to leave their homes after parents or guardians learn of their participation in a GSA and it is unreasonable to suggest that a teacher could consistently and without fail determine that a child was at-risk and withhold said information. Instead, it seems obvious that we would simply protect the anonymity of all students involved in a GSA giving students the appropriate responsibility to self-determine if and when and with whom they share this information.

Kenney has released a statement where he continues to insist that the outing queer children is not his intent. However, until he can guarantee the anonymity of any and all members of GSAs, and not at the discretion of teachers, and not with loopholes parents and teachers can work around, the absolute guarantee of anonymity for any and all students who enter a GSA, undue harm will undoubtedly befall our youth and children. We need firm lines drawn in the sand here, not wishful thinking that LGBTQ+ children and youth are mostly accepted and safe.

Amy Sameshima

Medicine Hat

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