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Welcoming, caring, respectful and safe schools

When students feel like they belong, it encourages them to stay in school to learn and succeed. These are environments where:

  • healthy and respectful relationships are fostered
  • students feel that adults care for them as a group and as individuals
  • positive mental health is promoted
  • values, rights, and responsibilities are respected
  • support is demonstrated through collaboration, high expectations, mutual trust and caring
  • diversity is respected, celebrated and understood as a strength
  • expectations are clear, consistent, and regularly communicated
  • consequences of unacceptable behaviour take into account the students age, maturity, and individual circumstances
  • support is provided for those impacted by inappropriate behaviour as well as for those who engage in inappropriate behaviours
  • children, youth and adults model positive social-emotional skills

Tools and resources

Documents to support welcoming, caring, respectful and safe learning environments that respect diversity and nurture a sense of belonging and a positive sense of self.

Walk Around: School Leaders
An observation guide to help school leaders ensure safe and caring environments in their schools.

Walk Around: Teacher Tool
An observation guide to help school leaders ensure safe and caring environments in their classrooms and schools.

Guidelines for Best Practices
Guidelines for Best Practices: Creating Learning Environments that Respect Diverse Sexual Orientations, Gender Identities and Gender Expressions

Legislative Requirements (PDF, 380 KB)
A tool for school authorities as they work to ensure their policies meet the minimum legislative requirements under Section 45.1 of the School Act

Other sites

Other sites to help school authorities support welcoming, caring, respectful and safe learning environments.

Alberta Teacher's Association (PDF, 12 MB)
Resources for teachers around safe and caring learning environments.

The Society for Safe and Caring Schools and Communities
Centre that works to improve the quality of life for all Alberta children.

Alberta Family Wellness Initiative
Research on early brain development and its connection to physical and mental health.

PolicyWise: Supporting Every Student Learning Series
A learning series for educators around supporting safe and caring schools.

GSA Network
A repository of information and resources on GSAs and safe and caring schools.

Legislation

The School Act sets out responsibilities for school authorities and principals around welcoming, caring, respectful and safe learning environments.

It is important that school authorities recognize the legislative changes resulting from An Act to Support Gay-Straight Alliances (PDF, 510 KB), which came into effect on December 15, 2017. The legislation amends the School Act to clarify the roles and responsibilities of school authorities and principals.

Key changes under An Act to Support Gay-Straight Alliances include the following:

  • Section 50.1 of the School Act is amended to clarify that parental notification does not apply to student organizations or activities, including a GSAs and QSAs.
  • Section 16.1 of the School Act is amended to:
    • clarify the role of school authorities and principals in supporting students who want to create a GSA or QSA;
    • clarify the timelines principals are expected to help students create GSAs and QSAs;
    • ensure students have the right to name a student organization a GSA/QSA;
    • clarify that a notification, if any, respecting a student organization, must be limited to the fact that the organization is being established or holding an activity; and
    • clarify that the Minister of Education can initiate an investigation or inquiry if a school authority does not comply with this section of the School Act.
  • Section 45.1 of the School Act is amended to:
    • ensure that all school authorities develop policies and make them publicly available;
    • ensure that policies established under section 45.1 affirm the rights of students and staff as provided for in the Alberta Human Rights Act and Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms;
    • specify elements that must be included in school authority policies;
    • provide the Minister of Education the authority to require school authorities to adopt policy elements, policies or codes of conduct;
    • clarify that the Minister of Education can appoint an individual to conduct an investigation or inquiry if a school authority does not comply with this section of the School Act.
  • Section 20 of the School Act is amended to:
    • specify the role of a principal to provide a welcoming, caring, respectful and safe learning environment.

Requirements for school authorities to create policies came into force on April 1, 2018 and these policies must be posted publicly by June 30, 2018.

Ministerial Orders

In November 2018, Ministerial Orders were issued to impose a safe and caring policy on 28 accredited funded private school authorities that were not in compliance with An Act to Support Gay-Straight Alliances. These school authorities (PDF, 265 KB) must post the Ministerial Order and policy in a prominent location on their website homepage.

This sample Ministerial Order, Schedule A, and Schedule B package (PDF, 686 KB) reflects what was sent to non-compliant school authorities.

Over 98% of kindergarten to Grade 12 students in Alberta are currently protected under compliant policies (PDF, 143 KB).

Document

Guidelines for Best Practices: Creating Learning Environments that Respect Diverse Sexual Orientations, Gender Identities and Gender Expressions
These guidelines support the creation of welcoming, caring, respectful and safe learning environments that foster diversity and nurture a sense of belonging and a positive sense of self.

Whole-school approach

In order for a school to be fully inclusive, strategies to promote safe and caring environments should be implemented throughout the entire school.

A whole-school approach is inclusive of school staff, students and education partners and touches all aspects of school life. It should promote positive mental health and academic achievement - and includes social-emotional learning in school practices, policies and partnerships.

A whole-school approach also means that all everyone in the school feels safe and welcome, no matter their ability, disability, language, cultural background, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression or age. Alberta schools are using a number of strategies to support welcoming, caring, respectful and safe learning environments that respect diversity and nurture a sense of belonging and a positive sense of self.

Understanding aspects of a whole-school approach will help school leaders decide how to best meet the needs and priorities of their school. Effective school-wide practices can then be used.

A whole-school approach:

  • is built on evidence-based strategies and practices (the effectiveness is documented and credible)
  • happens over a sustained period of time (e.g., full school year or longer)
  • is embedded into teaching, routines and activities
  • uses reliable instructional practices
  • is supported by ongoing professional development
  • engages students in active learning and opportunities to practice social-emotional skills
  • is embedded into school policies and practices
  • promotes positive mental health
  • is supported by ongoing professional development
  • involves family and community partnerships
  • aligns with the specific needs and priorities of the school community
  • collects information to ensure the strategy is making a positive difference in the learning environment

Frameworks for a whole-school approach:

The following frameworks provide school-wide opportunities for developing social-emotional competencies, promoting positive mental health and building welcoming, caring, respectful and safe environments:

Other sites

A whole-school approach is inclusive of school staff, students and partners and touches all aspects of school life.

Supporting practices

Evidence-informed strategies can be used to create a welcoming, caring, respectful and safe learning environments that respect diversity and nurture a sense of belonging and a positive sense of self.

These evidence-based practices offer strategies that can be used within a whole-school approach to help develop social-emotional competencies, promote positive mental health and build welcoming, caring, respectful and safe learning environments:

Document

Heart of the Matter
Character and Citizenship Education in Alberta Schools

Other sites

PolicyWise: Supporting Every Student Learning Series