News / Edmonton

Sex ed, GSAs hot-button issues in school election

Edmonton trustee candidates sift through surveys from advocacy groups on both sides

Kathy Dawson is on the board of directors with the Alberta Pro-Choice Coalition.

Kevin Tuong / Edmonton Freelance

Kathy Dawson is on the board of directors with the Alberta Pro-Choice Coalition.

Sex education and Gay-Straight Alliances are proving to be central election issues as school board candidates sift through surveys from advocacy groups.

The Alberta Pro-Choice Coalition gave a survey to candidates on nomination day asking them to pledge support for inclusive, “evidence-based” sex ed in schools that includes consent education.

By Friday afternoon, the group had received pledges from about half of Edmonton Public candidates and no Catholic candidates.

“When you hit your 30s, you might not use your algebra. But I guarantee you, by the time you hit your 30s you’ll have used the information you got on consent and sexual health,” said Kathy Dawson, a board member with the group.

Dawson said she is concerned that recent moves by the Edmonton public to offer inclusive sex ed, and move away from abstinence-only teachings, could be undone if certain candidates get in.

As a parent, she said she used to pay little attention to school board elections, which has made her keenly aware that candidates can get in under the radar.  

“I will never turn my back again on a trustee election,” Dawson said.

The LGBTQ Capital Club sent out a survey relating to Gay-Straight Alliances and accommodations for transgender students and staff, while Support Our Students Alberta asked candidates to pledge support for “LGBTQ2+ rights.”

Meanwhile, Parents for Choice in Education – a group that has voiced support for UCP leadership candidate Jason Kenney on social media – issued a survey with questions around a parent’s right to be “fully informed about all aspects of their children’s education.”

Individually, Edmonton public trustees Michael Janz and Bridget Stirling, who have been outspoken about their support for LGBTQ students, are being challenged by Yemi Philip and Tyler Duce in Wards F and G, respectfully.

Duce came under fire early in the campaign over a 2010 Facebook post in which he said he was born “homophobic,” and he later criticized Premier Rachel Notley in a blog after the premier said kids should not be outed to their parents if they join a GSA.

Phillip has campaigned alongside Duce.

In the Catholic race, the archdiocese website has posted profiles on candidates including Lisa Turchansky, who is running in Ward 76 against incumbent Marilyn Bergstra, who has advocated for more comprehensive sex ed.

Catholic Trustee Patricia Grell announced last month she would not run for re-election, due in part to “interference and bullying” by the archdiocese on issues around LGBTQ students.

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