Anti-bullying GSA bill receives second reading

NDP bill would require gay-straight alliances where a student requests one

An NDP bill that would require all publicly funded schools to help a student form a gay-straight alliance (GSA) where one is requested took another step forward in the legislative assembly Thursday.

“We’re calling on the government to get on board with this bill – it really is the right thing to do,” said David Forbes, the NDP critic for diversity, equality and human rights. “We know that having a GSA in a school reduces bullying and suicide attempts for both gay and straight students because it really creates a better school environment for everyone. Why the Sask. Party is resisting that is beyond me.”

The bill, The Respect for Diversity – Student Bill of Rights Act, received second reading in the legislature on Thursday, moved by the NDP.

A study by Egale Canada concluded that 64 per cent of LGBTQ youth feel unsafe at school, 80 per cent report being bullied, and half have thought about suicide.

The study also showed that a GSA established in a school for three or more years reduced the rates of discrimination, suicidal thoughts, and suicide attempts by half in both LGBTQ students, and straight boys.

Despite nearly identical laws in Ontario, Manitoba and Alberta, the Sask. Party has refused to support the NDP bill in Saskatchewan.

To date, the Sask. Party has claimed a law isn’t necessary – although Education Minister Don Morgan admitted in a media interview in May that he’d heard a number of instances in Saskatchewan in which students have been too afraid to ask for a GSA, or they’ve asked and been declined. He even said students were far too afraid to identify themselves, so he’s been unable to follow up with some who tried to raise concerns with him.

“This law is really about the safety of kids,” said Forbes. “They’re young, many are going through a tough time, and it’s just wrong to expect each of them to blaze a trail again and again if they want to create that safe space in their school or have their rights recognized. These kids shouldn’t have to be the leaders here – that’s up to us.”