It is important that school authorities recognize the legislative changes resulting from An Act to Support Gay-Straight Alliances, which came into effect on December 15, 2017. The legislation amends the School Act to clarify the roles and responsibilities of school authorities and principals.
Key changes under An Act to Support Gay-Straight Alliances include the following:
- Section 50.1 of the School Act is amended to clarify that parental notification does not apply to student organizations or activities, including a GSAs and QSAs.
- Section 16.1 of the School Act is amended to to:
- clarify the role of school authorities and principals in supporting students who want to create a GSA or QSA;
- clarify the timelines principals are expected to help students create GSAs and QSAs;
- ensure students have the right to name a student organization a GSA/QSA;
- clarify that a notification, if any, respecting a student organization, must be limited to the fact that the organization is being established or holding an activity; and
- clarify that the Minister of Education can initiate an investigation or inquiry if a school authority does not comply with this section of the School Act.
- Section 45.1 of the School Act is amended to to:
- ensure that all school authorities develop policies and make them publicly available;
- ensure that policies established under section 45.1 affirm the rights of students and staff as provided for in the Alberta Human Rights Act and Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms;
- specify elements that must be included in school authority policies;
- provide the Minister of Education the authority to require school authorities to adopt policy elements, policies or codes of conduct;
- clarify that the Minister of Education can appoint an individual to conduct an investigation or inquiry if a school authority does not comply with this section of the School Act.
- Section 20 of the School Act is amended to:
- specify the role of a principal to provide a welcoming, caring, respectful and safe learning environment.
Requirements for school authorities to create policies came into force on April 1, 2018 and these policies must be posted publicly by June 30, 2018.
In November 2018, Minister Eggen issued Ministerial Orders to impose a safe and caring policy on 28 accredited funded private school authorities that were not in compliance with An Act to Support Gay-Straight Alliances. These school authorities must post the Ministerial Order and policy in a prominent location on their website homepage.
This sample Ministerial Order, Schedule A, and Schedule B package reflects what was sent to non-compliant school authorities.
Over 98 per cent of kindergarten to Grade 12 students in Alberta are currently protected under compliant policies.