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Two thirds of Albertans support gay-straight alliances: poll

Student privacy trumped parental rights to know

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Albertans support gay-straight alliances with “significant intensity” according to a ThinkHQ/Metro News poll conducted last month.
 
Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs) are student-run, teacher-supported peer support groups, with the goal of making a the vulnerable LGBTQ youth feel save and included.

Though Bill 10 to allow GSAs in Alberta schools passed in 2015, it made recent headlines when PC Party leader Jason Kenney said parents have a right to know what's going on with their kids in school. Critics suggested Kenney was trying to 'out' kids involved in GSAs.

The ThinkHQ online survey took place between May 15 to 21 and polled 1195 Albertans and asked: Overall, would you say that you personally approve or disapprove of the policy to allow GSAs at student request? 

ThinkHQ / Metro

With 42 per cent of respondents strongly approving and 23 per cent somewhat approving, nearly two thirds (65 per cent) of respondents supported GSAs, while 26 per cent disapproved.
 
ThinkHQ president Marc Henry said the numbers are pretty strong throughout the demographics but tend to be higher in urban areas, with higher support from younger people and women, and support rises with education level and was more common amongst younger families.
 
“Interesting is that it’s almost 80 per cent approval amongst those with young families as opposed to those with more mature families,” he said.
 
The survey also asked if when it comes to balancing a student's right to privacy and a parents right to know, more than half (56 per cent) said it should be up to the students to tell their parents about joining a GSA.Thirty-one per cent said they think parents should be notified if their kids join a GSA.

Margin of error doesn't apply to an online survey due to its representative, but non random sample, but sample of this size typically yields +/- 2.8 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

ThinkHQ / Metro

'Young progressive province' changing views on GSAs: Expert

Support is strong for Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs) in Alberta, according to a ThinkHQ/Metro News poll—despite political controversy surrounding the groups and the rights of students over parents.  
 
Caprice Kirkhope, an Alberta Grade 12 student and member of a GSA at her school, was thrilled with the survey's results.
 
“I think honestly awesome,” she said. “The formation of a lot of these groups has drawn attention to them which I think has really helped.”
 
In 2015, the province introduced Bill 10 which mandated that all school boards must allow GSAs if students request to form one, and most schools and boards followed the rules and created their own guidelines for inclusivity of LGBTQ youth.

Some have argued parents should have a right to know of their child's participation in all school activities.

Kirkhope said she’s seen firsthand the importance of student privacy.
 
“I have a friend who is not out to their parents yet and they’re a part of a GSA,” she said. “I don’t think they would have joined and got the support if they had to tell their parents.”
 
Dr. Kris Wells, a faculty director of the Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services at the University of Alberta, said he’s pleased to see Albertans heading towards more acceptance and support for GSAs.
 
“All we’ve seen before this is a small minority of loud angry voices monopolizing this discussion against GSAs,” he said. 
 
Wells said comments about parental rights from Jason Kenney and the “resounding silence” from Brian Jean shows how out of step they are with the majority of Albertan’s views about GSAs.
 
“We’re a young progressive province and GSAs are a part of that changing attitude,” he said.

Wells said trends seen in the poll, including support from women, younger people and individuals with higher education fall in line with those who are generally in favour of LGBTQ issues like same sex marriage and LGBTQ inclusion in schools.

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