Alberta’s Amended School Act

Alberta’s Amended School Act, also known as Bill 10, came into effect on June 1, 2015. The legislation promotes a welcoming, caring, respectful and safe learning environment that respects diversity and fosters a sense of belonging.  The Amended School Act promotes equality and non-discrimination with respect to organizations in schools such as gay-straight alliances (GSAs) and queer-straight alliances (QSAs).

Highlights of the new legislation include:

  • amendments to the School Act that include a definition of bullying and acknowledge that all education stakeholders have a responsibility to ensure schools are welcoming, caring, respectful and safe;
  • requirement of  boards to allow students to start gay-straight alliances (GSAs) or queer-straight alliances (QSAs) in their schools;
  • Sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression are protected grounds from discrimination, and;
  • Alberta’s Amended School Act continues to require the notification of parents when teaching the sexual health education curriculum.

Bullying

Amendments set out responsibilities for all partners in the education system, including students, parents, and school boards. All partners have a responsibility to do their part to ensure welcoming, caring, respectful and safe learning environments. While the Amended School Act attempts to shift the negative discourse around bullying, to a positive discussion about safe and caring school environments, bullying is still defined as the following: repeated and hostile or demeaning behavior by an individual in the school community where the behavior is intended to cause harm, fear or distress to one or more individuals in the school community, including psychological harm, or harm to an individual’s reputation.

Highlights of the new legislation include:

  • “Section 45.1 (1) of the Act requires school boards to ensure that students and staff are provided with a welcoming, caring, respectful and safe learning environment that respects diversity and fosters a sense of belonging.”
  • “The legislation requires school boards to establish, implement, and maintain a policy to provide a welcoming, caring, respectful and safe learning environment which will include a code of conduct for students. This code of conduct will be made publicly available, reviewed every year, and contain specific statements about acceptable behaviour, unacceptable behaviour, the consequences of unacceptable behaviour, and support for students impacted.”
  • Schools now have legislative backing to address incidents that occur off of school property and outside of school time when the consequences have an impact on individuals attending the school.

Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) or Queer-Straight Alliance (QSA)

  • The amendments require school authorities to allow students and teachers to form a GSA/QSA on school property. Further, every student has the right to belong to a GSA or QSA.
  • This legislation ensures that any student who wants to start a GSA/QSA at their school will be supported by the school, school authority and the Government of Alberta. While school authorities are expected to comply, each GSA/QSA may vary in the type and/or amount of support; but support should be driven the needs and goals of the student body.

Parent Notification

  • School boards shall “provide parents with notice where courses, programs of study or instructional materials, or instruction or exercises, include subject matter that deals primarily and explicitly with religion or human sexuality.”
  • “Incidental or indirect references to religion, religious themes, and human sexuality are excluded. Where a parent or guardian makes a written request that the student be excluded, teachers shall exempt the student, without academic penalty, from such instruction, course of study, educational program, or use of instructional material.”

Our sample parent letters can be used to notify parents and may be adapted to meet your school’s needs.

 

Tip Sheets: 

Alberta Education has created tip sheets for students, parents, and school staff along with many other useful resources:

Spring 2015 Legislative Amendments:

https://education.alberta.ca/department/policy/amendmentstobill10/

Welcoming, Caring, Respectful and Safe Learning Environments:

https://education.alberta.ca/admin/supportingstudent/safeschools/

 

Additional Resources:

www.bullyfreealberta.ca

www.safeandcaring.ca

 

logos