Gay-straight alliances blocked by school boards, Sandra Jansen says

Bill 10 is a compromise that allows students a clear course of action towards gay-straight alliances, yet still grants autonomy to school boards resisant to the anti-bullying groups, says Progressive Conservative MLA Sandra Jansen.

Tory MLA defends anti-bullying bill that sends students to court to fight school boards

Sandra Jansen, sponsor of Bill 10, says the bill protects the autonomy of school boards while giving a legal option to students prohibited from starting a gay straight alliance. (CBC)

Bill 10 is a compromise that allows students a clear course of action towards gay-straight alliances, yet still gives autonomy to school boards against the anti-bullying groups, says Progressive Conservative MLA Sandra Jansen.

“This doesn’t get us all the way there, but it’s a compromise and it moves us forward,” Jansen told CBC’s Mark Connolly on Edmonton AM this morning.

Jansen is the sponsor of the bill, created in response to a private member's bill brought forward by Liberal Laurie Blakeman that would have forced schools across the province to allow alliances (GSAs).

Jansen said some school boards in the province oppose the alliances being mandatory.

“The bill takes autonomy away from the school boards and says they have to do it and the boards weren't happy with that.”

When asked which school boards did not want gay-straight alliances in its schools, Jansen said she didn’t have the information.  

Tony Sykora, chair of Elk Isalnd Catholic School Board and president of the Alberta Catholic School Trustees Association, supported the legislation, calling it a highly emotional topic.

"In some places (GSAs) might be very appropriate," he said. "In others, local decision makers might decide that there are other ways to address those kinds of issues."

Bill 10 forces boards to examine what they're doing to prevent bullying to see how they might do better, he said.

"One of the things Bill 10 does, from what I've seen so far, is that it makes a pretty strong statement that school boards ... must enact policies to protect all kids, including kids that are discriminated against for sexual orientation or gender identity." 

Jansen said the government bill allows students banned from starting a GSA to ask the Court of Queen’s Bench for a judicial review, a task critics have described as onerous.

“I am happy to help and the government is happy to help people go through that process,” Jansen said. “I believe now and always will that every child in every school in the province that wants a GSA should have one.”


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