Question:There has been a lot of talk about Bill 10 and the Education Act, but has anything changed in the current School Act? Do school boards and others need to address some matters now?
Answer: Bill 10, the Act to Amend the Alberta Bill of Rights to Protect Our Children, received royal assent on March 19, 2015. While most know the legislation to be the bill about support for student organizations like gay-straight alliances, Bill 10 also made changes to the Alberta Human Rights Act, the School Act and the Education Act. While the Education Act has not yet been proclaimed, changes to the other acts have been in effect since June 1, 2015.
Of particular note are the changes to the School Act. As of June 1, under section 12, students are now expected to (g) “ensure that [their] conduct contributes to a welcoming, caring, respectful and safe learning environment that respects diversity and fosters a sense of belonging” and (h) “refrain from, report and not tolerate bullying or bullying behaviour.”
The other important change refers to parents. Under section 16.2, a parent has the responsibility to (b) “ensure [their] conduct contributes to a welcoming, caring, respectful and safe learning environment” and (d) “encourage, foster and advance collaborative, positive and respectful relationships with teachers, principals, and other school staff and professionals providing supports and services in the school.”
Another key change refers to the board’s responsibility. Under section 45.1 (1), a board has the responsibility to ensure that all of its students and staff are “provided with a welcoming, caring, respectful and safe learning environment that respects diversity and fosters a sense of belonging,” and (2) “a board shall establish, implement and maintain a policy … to provide a welcoming, caring, respectful and safe learning environment that includes the establishment of a code of conduct for students.”
All these changes emphasize that students are entitled to welcoming, caring, respectful and safe learning environments that respect diversity and nurture a sense of belonging and a positive sense of self. ❚
Questions for consideration in this column are welcome. Please address them to Gordon Thomas at Barnett House (firstname.lastname@example.org).