The following is a press release from the Manitoba Teachers’ Society. Bill 18, also known as the anti-bullying bill, passed in the Manitoba legislature on September 13, and is seen as an important way to help all students feel supported in our schools.

Manitoba teachers heralded the passage of Bill 18, today, as an important step toward making schools safe places for all, including LGBTQ students.

“Teachers have always believed in human rights and in keeping students safe,” says MTS president Paul Olson. “There is nothing more basic than safe schools, and one of teachers’ first obligations is to student safety.

The new legislation requires school boards to expand their policies about internet usage to include bullying on social media platforms, by text messaging and instant messaging – and to establish respect for human diversity policies.

“Digital tools mean that bullied students can be victimized anywhere, anytime, 365 days a year,” says Olson. “Expanding the definition of bullying in this way helps teachers ensure schools are as safe as they can be.”

The legislation will also require schools to allow Gay Straight Alliances (GSAs) to be established in any school when requested by students. “Research shows that in schools where GSAs are running, LGBTQ students feel safer and feelings of support and belonging among many student groups increases.”

Olson says students shouldn’t have to fight for the right to be safe at school. “Even if they can’t enjoy that most basic right in other places, they should expect it – and enjoy it – at school.”