The school with the first gay-straight alliance in St. Albert believes the student-run club is making a difference.
About 20 teens attend the GSA at Bellerose High School which started five years ago.
Grade 12 student Robert Bartlett, who identifies as bisexual, says the club helped him get over the fear of coming out.
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“You can be confident with who you are no matter how people think of you or look at you.”
The clubs, which include students of all sexual orientations, help combat homophobia and the bullying of gay teens.
They can also save lives. Studies show students who identify as sexual minorities become depressed more often and frequently think about suicide.
School psychologist Krysta Wosnack says support from a GSA is important because it helps students realize they aren’t alone.
“Being able to have a group in a building where students are actively seeking that help and support and there is a safe place for it is huge. It’s monumental for our kids,” she said.
“It also helps to raise awareness to other students in the building that aren't actively in our group to see that being different and being unique is OK and to be more accepting of that as well.”
While Bellerose High School has a GSA , they don't exist in St. Albert's two Catholic high schools in St. Albert.
On Monday, MLAs defeated a motion calling for mandatory GSAs in schools where students ask for them.
Some experts are angry that the motion was turned down.
“We know if a student doesn't feel safe in their schools, its very difficult to learn and that's what schools should be all about — supporting young people to achieve their potentials.” said Kristopher Wells, assistant professor and director of programs and services with the Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services at the University of Alberta
Student Robert Bartlett believes the groups make a difference for the entire school population.
“It helps the school by getting them to acknowledge that even though there's people who are homosexuals that they still are the same as everyone else,” he said.