‘I need you to stand with me’ Alberta education minister asks school boards to support LGBTQ policy

EDMONTON – One day after Alberta school boards voted against debating a policy that would protect LGBTQ students, Education Minister David Eggen addressed the Alberta School Boards Association at their general meeting Tuesday morning.

Education Minister David Eggen discussed his March 2016 deadline for boards to develop a LGBTQ policy.

“Working together, we’ll ensure that every single school board in this province is working to ensure that students are free from discrimination and that schools are welcoming, caring, safe and respectful,” Eggen said.

READ MORE: Alberta tells all school boards to create LGBTQ-inclusive policies

The education minister added social justice and equality are not “exclusionary” and asked all school boards to embrace a policy that protects LGBTQ students.

“I need you to stand with me to make sure that we have something that is not just words on paper, but it moves words into action,” said Eggen.

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“And that we are not just providing some law on a piece of paper, but we are providing a mechanism by which we can teach our students, our teachers, our parents and everybody just exactly what equality looks like.”

READ MORE: Edmonton Public School Board calls on ASBA to support LGBTQ policy 

The comments received a standing ovation from most of those in attendance. Eggen said he doesn’t want government to determine a single policy for all school boards to follow, rather he would like each board to come up with their own policy that put students first.

“It’s very important that people develop their own policy and work through it so that they can internalize the policy. It’s not just coming down from the legislature, but they can own that policy.”

However, despite the apparent support towards the education minister’s speech, the Edmonton Public School Board motion to add the LGBTQ policy to the conference agenda was denied.

READ MORE: Alberta school boards will not debate LGBTQ policy

In order for the policy to be debated, 66 per cent of the more than 60 boards had to vote in favour.

Thirty-nine boards – or 62 per cent – voted in favour, including Edmonton Public and Catholic boards.

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Twenty-four boards – or 38 per cent – did not feel the LGBTQ debate was an emergent issue.

One board that voted against the motion told Global News it is not against the policy, but already has one that protects all students and staff.

The Alberta School Boards Association said it already has a policy in place to protect students, but it doesn’t include specific LGBTQ language.