Everything a teacher needs to know about gay-straight alliances (GSAs) is contained in a new booklet entitled GSAs and QSAs in Alberta Schools: A Guide for Teachers.
The Alberta Teachers’ Association has just published the booklet and sent a copy to every school in the province.
Originally authored in 2005 by Kris Wells of the University of Alberta’s Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services, the booklet was in need of a substantial revision to reflect the many changes that have occurred in the last 10 years, said Andrea Berg, the executive staff officer who is the secretary of the Association’s Diversity, Equity and Human Rights Committee.
"There’s been a new spotlight on the significance and importance of GSAs in schools so we need to keep current," Berg said.
Much of that spotlight has come due to Bill 10. Passed in the spring, the bill gave Alberta students the right to form school-sponsored gay-straight alliances. The bill was controversial, partly because an earlier version would have required students to fight school boards in court for the right to form gay-straight alliances.
Berg noted that the revision of the booklet was accomplished by a panel of teachers from both public and Catholic systems, in consultation with Wells.
Among the changes contained in the revised booklet is a new focus on making GSAs inclusive for transgender students. Also, the revision reflects the fact that GSAs are no longer just a high school phenomenon, but are increasingly appearing in junior high and elementary schools, Berg said.
She added that the roles of teachers are also changing as the GSA issue evolves.
"Teachers are now needing to take on more significant public roles of supporting GSAs in their schools and supporting LGBT students," Berg said. "We’ve got to provide teachers with as much support as possible."
Additional copies of the handbook are available at the ATA website or by contacting the Professional Development program area, Berg said.
To get a copy of GSAs and QSAs in Alberta Schools
Online: Visit www.teachers.ab.ca. Click on Publications, then Other Publications. Scroll down the page or click on the link Human Rights Issues.
By email or phone: Contact Odette Ingabire in the Professional Development program area at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-800-232-7208.
New workshop also available
The Association has also created a new workshop to support the revised GSA handbook. Entitled PRISM: Professionals Respecting Individual Sexual (and Gender) Minorities, the workshop aims to help school leaders and teachers understand the issues of gender and sexual minorities, develop strategies to build an inclusive school community and support the establishment and operation of a gay-straight alliance.
Workshops can be booked by contacting Professional Development at Barnett House at 780-447-9485 or 1-800-232-7208 or at email@example.com.