Alberta’s Amended School Act
Alberta’s School Act was amended on June 1, 2015 to set out responsibilities of all education partners to ensure welcoming, caring, respectful and safe learning environments. Section 50.1(1) of the School Act requires that parents be notified when human sexuality education is going to be taught. For more information, go to Notifying Parents.
Highlights of the amended School Act include:
- a definition of bullying
- responsibilities of students, parents and school boards as they relate to welcoming, caring, respectful and safe learning environments that respect diversity and nurture a sense of belonging and a positive sense of self
- that school boards must establish, implement and maintain a related policy
- that school boards must support students to create gay-straight-alliances (GSAs) or queer straight alliances (QSAs) in their schools
- a requirement for a code of conduct for students that addresses bullying behaviours
- recognizing the third week in November as ‘Bullying Awareness and Prevention Week’
In November of 2015, the Alberta Education Minister directed every school board in Alberta to develop policies, regulations and procedures addressing the board’s responsibility as it relates to sexual and gender minorities. In January 2016, Alberta Education released Guidelines for schools to be used by school boards to create policies and guidelines supporting LGBTQ* students, families and staff.
Contact your administration for more information about your school board’s guidelines.
Gay-Straight/Queer-Straight Alliances (GSAs/QSAs)
GSAs/QSAs are student groups found in some K-12 schools. These groups create supportive and safe environments for sexual and gender minorities and their allies. Schools looking for ways to create a safer school space, reduce bullying and support human rights and social justice related to sexual orientation and gender diversity may choose to start a GSA/QSA. In Alberta, students who request such a group are guaranteed the right to start the group in their school, have regular meetings in a safe space, have an adult supervisor/sponsor and name the club.
Positive impacts of GSAs/QSAs include:
- strongerattachment and connectedness to schools
- fewer bullying incidents
- increased sense of safety
- improved mental health and wellness
- greater self-esteem and positive identity development
- less truancy and greater school success
- greater sense of pride, empowerment and hope
- increased visibility of LGBTQ+ identities
- challenging heteronormative language
- building positive relationships
Teachers can recommend the steps below for students who want to start a GSA/QSA:
- find a teacher or staff member to act as a sponsor
- meet with the school administration
- find other students who may want to help start up the group
- pick a meeting space
- advertise the group
- plan a first meeting
- hold that meeting
- set up ground rules/group agreements
- plan for the future
For more information about the School Act, bullying and GSAs/QSAs, see the Additional Resources page.