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Thousands of Alberta students walk out of class Friday morning in support of GSAs

Last Updated May 3, 2019 at 1:40 pm MDT

(Kayla Bruch - 660 NEWS)

Students in Alberta are protesting the potential change to law around GSAs in schools

Alberta students are planning to walkout after Alberta Premier Jason Kenney's proposal to change GSA related legislation

CALGARY (660 NEWS) — Friday morning across the province students are walking out of schools to demonstrate their support for the rights of LGBTQ youth.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is proposing we move away from Bill 24 and go back to Bill 10, meaning in some cases teachers could disclose to parents if their child has joined a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA.)

“In fact, it would give the strongest legal support for GSAs of any province in Canada,” Kenney previously stated.

Meantime, Dr. Kristopher Wells, associate professor in the faculty of Health and Community Studies at MacEwan University, said there’s a lot of concern about rolling back legislation that could potentially lead to students being outed against their will if they join a GSA.

“We’re talking for many young people a matter of life and death,” he said. “We know that this community of young people faces much higher rates of suicide, parental rejection and homelessness and drug and alcohol abuse.”

However, this is not because of who they are Wells explains, this is largely because of the non-supportive environments they find themselves in. He says these alliances can be a lifeline for many young people across this province.

Wells thinks the public has very clearly indicated their support for these groups with rallies, to now student protests.

“Alberta wants to move forward on social issues, not backwards and wants this new government to focus on what they were elected for, the economy,” he said. “So an attack on LGBTQ issues is seen as an attack on all Albertans.”

In Wells’ opinion, the United Conservative Party would do well to leave GSAs alone. He says instead they should be working to ensure the best supports and protections are in place for vulnerable students, such as members of the LQBTQ community, and not ignore these students.

“Many of these students in four years will become voters, and they will not forget a government that did not support them,” he said.

Education Minister Adriana LaGrange issued the following statement on the student-led walkout:

“The most important job I have as Minister of Education is to listen. I will have an open line of communication with everyone who has a role in our province’s education system. One of my top priorities is to meet with students, as well as parents, teachers, principals, trustees and other stakeholders – and work with them to strengthen our education system.

“Our government has been very clear: we do not support mandatory parental notification or ‘outing’ of any student.

“We do strongly support efforts to make our schools in Alberta free from bullying, by providing peer support, counselling and safe spaces for all students in our province, especially those subject to bullying or prejudice because of their sexual identity.

“As minister, I do want to meet with passionate, young Albertans to understand their concerns and clarify any misunderstandings about our position. I believe that we share the same values in wanting a strong, vibrant and inclusive education system that protects students against discrimination and bullying.”