Education minister praises OHS gay-straight alliance
One of the largest for a school of its size
Tuesday, Feb 06, 2018 06:00 am
Education Minister David Eggen came to Olds High School Thursday to meet and support members of the school’s gay-straight alliance (GSA).
Eggen told the Albertan that at about 25 members, the OHS GSA is one of the largest ones he’s seen among schools of that size. Currently OHS has 547 students.
“It was quite emotional, quite frankly. I mean, there are so many students here, it’s one of the biggest GSAs I’ve ever visited,” Eggen said.
“I wasn’t expecting that at Olds. And then, some of the stories and so forth that the students have been sharing with me, I find it very emotional,” he added.
During an approximately half-hour meeting, student members of the GSA asked Eggen questions about Bill 24, a controversial bill brought in by the NDP provincial government and passed last November.
In essence, it makes it mandatory for schools to create GSAs if students want one and does not allow LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, transgender or queer) students to be outed unless those students wish to be. That includes not informing parents of their sexual orientation unless students want to make that known.
“I’m feeling good about it,” Eggen said. “Bill 24 has now received royal assent so it’s the law.”
He praised the OHS GSA.
“This is very good. Proportionally this is very strong. It demonstrates leadership and some strong personalities, obviously amongst the students that they’re not afraid. I mean, here they are, they’re looking us in the eye; they had some good questions,” Eggen said.
“It reaffirms your faith in not just young people of this generation, but in our schools and the ability for people to be empathetic and supportive towards each other; it’s great.”
During the interview with the Albertan, Eggen was asked if he believes Bill 24 will be retracted if his government is not re-elected in the 2019 provincial election.
He’s confident it will remain, in at least some form.
“I work hard to ensure that what we’re doing is in line with what Albertans want and need. And one of those things, I believe, is for equality, regardless of one’s sexuality,” Eggen said.
“So I really don’t think it would be either good policy or good politics to go back on the sense of confidence and security that we’ve created for the kids who are surrounding us here right now to change that policy.”
Eggen said before the bill became law “we saw much higher rates of self abuse, of suicide, of dropping out of school amongst LGBTQ students,” although he did not cite any statistics to back up that claim.
“My job as the minister of education is to graduate students and to have them stay in school and to create a safe and caring environment for those same students, so I think this is a step forward and it’s a time for celebration here; it’s such a strong GSA, I’m feeling really good about it.”
On behalf of the group, a member of the GSA, Parker Mogck, thanked Eggen for his visit.
“It has been a great honour to have you with us today,” he said.