EDMONTON, Alberta, April 3, 2014 (LifeSiteNews.com) – A spokesman for Alberta's education minister said that while the minister supports the establishment of gay-straight alliances (GSAs) in schools, he won't force schools to accept the homosexuality-promoting student clubs.
“We’re supportive of GSAs,” said press secretary Dan Powers according to the Calgary Herald. “But at this point in time we will not mandate that all school boards provide for GSAs.”
The statement from Education Minister Jeff Johnson was prompted by a proposal from Liberal education critic Kent Hehr who said he intends to introduce a motion in the legislature on April 7 that will seek to deny school principals the authority to “delay or deny efforts” of students who want to start a GSA in their school.
“If the Tories really want to walk the walk on being supportive of LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer) people, they have to do more than show up at pride parades, and this is the way to do it,” said Hehr in another Herald report.
Dennis Theobald, associate executive secretary for the Alberta Teachers Association, told the paper gay-straight alliances are effective in promoting acceptance and safety in schools and in curbing homophobic bullying.
“Homophobic bullying is a serious problem,” said Theobald. “Students who are experiencing issues around their gender identity are often very much at risk for bullying pressure.”
“I suspect that there may be a bit of caution on the part of school boards who may not be, shall we say, entirely sure how such initiatives would be received,” Theobald added.
Powers said that this is precisely the minister's position, in that he prefers to let elected school boards that “have a mandate from their supporters” make the final decisions on whether GSAs are appropriate for their schools.
“We have to be cognizant and appreciate that (school boards) are local officials who are responsible for this and they get elected and have a mandate from their supporters and their constituents,” said Powers.
“So we’re not going to prescribe to locally elected school authorities what they may or may not do,” he told the Herald.
This position was endorsed by the head of the Alberta School Boards Association who said that a governmental GSA mandate removing decision-making authority from local jurisdictions as envisioned by Hehr would meet resistance from Alberta school boards.
“Traditionally, I don’t think that we would support a provincial directive that might constrain the ability of school boards to reflect and meet political needs of their communities,” Helen Clease told the Herald.
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School boards, Clease added, develop policy tailored to the needs of the community they serve. “We know that one size doesn’t fit all,” she said. “What’s right for one community may not work for another.”
GSA promoters generally argue that bullying of same-sex attracted students is a particular problem in schools. But critics point to numerous studies showing that sexual orientation is way down the list of reasons for bullying.
The homosexual lobby group Egale claims that from a quarter to half of all homosexual students report being bullied because of their sexual orientation.
However, a mainstream survey done by the American Association of University Women showed that 83 per cent of all girls and 79 per cent of all boys reported experiencing physical intimidation or sexual harassment at school, indicating that the numbers presented by Egale may be lacking in contextual credibility but are intended to present the problem of bullying directed at homosexuals as a “crisis.”
GLSEN, a US homosexual lobby group that focuses on schools, reported in their surveys that students are much more often bullied, called names, or harassed because of “the way they look or their body size” than because of their sexual orientation.
Moreover, researchers have shown that legislation is ineffective as a means to end bullying in schools.
Peter Jon Mitchell, senior researcher at the Institute of Marriage and Family Canada, wrote in a public policy analysis titled “Does anti-bullying legislation work?” that before attempting to curb bullying in schools through legislation, the government would do better to “ensure that school communities have the autonomy to customize community specific programs” for the reason that the “best ideas are likely to come from those closest to the problem.”
Mitchell's paper noted that the entire debate surrounding GSAs has “obscur[ed] the reality that legislating against bullying may not actually stop bullies.”
Mitchell noted how every province has some measure in place to address bullying, yet despite Ontario spending $150 million on its own safe school programs between 2007 and 2010, the issue remains what he called a “serious problem.”
He pointed to the United States’ failure to curb bullying in schools, even with the existence of a myriad of anti-bullying laws.
“The bigger problem with bullying is this: It is a complex relational issue requiring the engagement of parents, extended family, students and educators,” wrote Mitchell.
“Bullying requires action,” Mitchell concluded, “but rushing to legislate schoolyard relationships is unproven territory that in some places amounts to little more than political posturing. The social health of a school community will not be determined by government, but by the parents, students and educators who are already invested in their local school.”
Jeff Johnson, Alberta Minister of Education
424 Legislature Building
10800 97 Avenue, Edmonton, AB, T5K 2B6
Phone: (780) 427-5010
Fax: (780) 427-5018