St. Albert Public students will get to learn about Alberta’s 2SLGBTQIA+ community this fall as part of a groundbreaking new course advocates say could save young lives.
St. Albert Public trustees voted unanimously May 24 to authorize the use of the new 2SLGBTQIA+ Perspectives course in their district from now until the end of the 2026-2027 school year.
This optional course, which will be open to junior high students starting this fall, aims to teach students about experiences and challenges faced by members of the Two-Spirit, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and/or questioning, Intersex, Asexual, and other (the “+”) community.
St. Albert Public administrators developed this course in response to student interest, said district spokesperson Paula Power. The course was written with the help of the district’s sexual orientation and gender identity committee, The Outloud Foundation for LGBTQ Community Supports and Services, and the University of Alberta’s Fyrefly Institute.
The course outline states that students in it will analyze portrayals of 2SLGBTQIA+ people in the media, develop strategies to identify and address pressures faced by 2SLGBTQIA+ students, and apply leadership, advocacy, and empathy skills to empower themselves and the 2SLGBTQIA+ community. The course will examine topics such as mental health, the impacts of stereotypes, and how sex and gender interact with other identities.
Power said the course aims to help students understand diverse perspectives and become better allies of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community.
“It really will help our students who maybe haven’t seen themselves in the curriculum before,” she said, and make them part of the school community.
St. Albert Public board chair Kim Armstrong said junior high is a great time for this course, as junior high is when many kids start to question their sexuality and gender. This course should help sexual and gender minority students feel safe and welcome at school — important, as 2SLGBTQ+ students are often at high risk of mental illness and suicide.
“This course is going to save lives,” Armstrong said.
Kristopher Wells, who holds the Canada Research Chair for the public understanding of sexual and gender minority youth at MacEwan University, called this course groundbreaking and historic.
“To my knowledge, it’s the first course specific to 2SLGBTQ+ persons offered in Alberta at any grade level,” he said, adding that St. Albert Public had shown leadership in approving it.
Wells, who is gay, said this course would have made a huge difference in his life had it been around when he was a student.
“What I was taught in the 1980s going to school here in St. Albert was that if you were gay, you were going to get AIDS and be dead by the time you were 30,” he said.
“That didn’t give me any hope for the future.”
Wells said this course should create a more welcoming school environment for all students, which research by the Trevor Project suggests should reduce suicide risks amongst sexual and gender minority students. It should also connect youths with positive role models and raise awareness of the evolution of human rights in Alberta.
Outloud Foundation manager Kelsey Robbins said this course should give 2SLGBTQ+ students and their allies a safe way to learn about their community’s history.
“We want kids to have appropriate and correct understanding of their history, and what better way to control that than through school?”
An outline of the 2SLGBTQIA+ Perspectives course can be found in the agenda package for the May 24 St. Albert Public board meeting. Questions on the course should go to [email protected].
Quest for $50,000
The approval of this course came the day before volunteers repainted the rainbow crosswalk in front of St. Albert Place to commemorate Pride Month, which takes place in June. This year’s crosswalk is modelled on the Progress Pride flag, which includes additional coloured chevrons to represent ethnic minorities and the trans community.
Outloud Foundation officials used the occasion to kick off their month-long push to raise some $50,000 in support of vulnerable 2SLGBTQIA+ youths
Last April, Outloud asked St. Albert council for $50,000 to hire staff to deal with a youth suicide crisis underway in the city. Council heard that the group had seen a surge in demand for its programs, with youths outnumbering staff 20-to-one at its weekly drop-in meetings, but has since indicated that it was unlikely to provide the group with that money.
Speaking at the crosswalk painting, Robbins said the group has seen a roughly 25 per cent jump in demand this year that shows no sign of slowing down.
“We’re seeing an astronomical number of kids in our programs, and a lot of them are in crisis,” she said, with many being suicidal.
Robbins said Outloud has been approached by an anonymous donor who has agreed to match every dollar the community donates to the group this June, to a maximum of $25,000. Outloud is calling on the St. Albert region to donate $25,000 to the group by June 30 so they end up with $50,000, which would let them hire one full-time or several part-time staff members to help 2SLGBTQ+ youths get the supports they need.
The donation drive ends June 30. Donations can be made at www.outloudstalbert.ca.