By Tim Kalinowski on November 4, 2017.
With Bill 24, the Notley government tabled legislation to formalize the right of students in schools to form Gay-Straight Alliances, and added enhanced protections by explicitly forbidding schools from revealing to parents when students join GSAs.
Cypress-Medicine Hat MLA Drew Barnes said on Friday he personally supports the idea of students having the ability to form GSAs in schools, but felt Bill 24 was nothing more than the latest example of NDP government overreach.
“Yes, I support GSAs in schools, but parents have paramount responsibility to raise their children,” stated Barnes. “And then we use the highly trained educators, and trust their professional judgment.
“This isn’t really about GSAs, it’s about whether or not the parents should be notified. I believe teachers should notify parents unless there is reason not to. We have to put the best interests of children and families first.”
SD76 board chair Rick Massini, unlike Barnes, said he fully supports the government’s decision to formalize GSA legislation.
“I think GSAs are instrumental in providing students with a sense of security and safety,” said Massini, stressing everyone involved in this debate likely wants what is best for kids and families. “Certainly, for some kids, having that information shared with parents would be pretty devastating for them. I am glad to see there is something formal in place to protect them.”
Concerned Parents of SD76 spokesperson Gerry Prince said Bill 24 was a distraction from the real issues facing Alberta education.
“It appears they are trying to go ahead and put into legislation that which should be dealt with at a school level, not a provincial law level,” said Prince. “We have much bigger problems in Alberta education than these gender issues.
“We have to look at all kids at risk. With suicide rates and such, there are far more prevalent causes of kids feeling suicidal. And we need to shift our focus and start dealing with the more important issues.”
Medicine Hat MLA and Speaker of the House Bob Wanner said this position is not substantiated by the statistics he has seen, which show LGBTQ students have higher suicide and depression rates than most other vulnerable student populations. However, Wanner agreed Albertans need to respond with care and concern for all kids at risk.
“I, along with I believe most folks, support any person who is a victim of abuse, bullying or is suffering fear,” he said. “No child in this province should be fearful as to their identity and who they think they are. I think we have a responsibility to them and each other we ensure no child will suffer that kind of pain and isolation.”
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