Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

'Ecstatic' over school ruling

Steinbach student 'overjoyed' gay-straight club posters OK'd

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Evan Wiens is "ecstatic and overjoyed" he will be allowed to put up posters this morning in Steinbach Regional Secondary School promoting a gay-straight alliance in the school.

The next GSA meeting is April 11, the 17-year-old Grade 11 student said after getting the green light from Hanover School Division Wednesday.

"I'm so happy they listened to me and took into consideration my request for advertisement. It means so much," Wiens said.

Wiens said his only "bit of disappointment" was he had to ask the board before Bill 18 makes it provincial law that schools must accommodate students wishing to start a GSA.

The school had earlier allowed Wiens to form a GSA, but would not previously allow him to advertise it and would not allow him to put up posters.

"I'm a bit disappointed knowing that if I hadn't met with the board, nothing would've changed until September when Bill 18 had passed. But, I'm happy Hanover listened to me and changed their policy," Wiens said.

Trustees met Tuesday and board chairman Randy Hildebrand and superintendent Randy Dueck informed Wiens of the decision in a face-to-face meeting Wednesday.

"I am so glad that all schools in the division may have a GSA and advertise, not just mine. It shows that HSD is moving forward regardless of the talk around the community," Wiens said.

A joint statement from Hildebrand and Dueck said HSD was pleased to announce that "A gay/straight alliance may advertise events in a manner equivalent to their school's existing student initiated groups.

"Hanover School Division will continue to work with our schools and our students to ensure safe learning environments for all."

Dueck said in an interview the trustees were aware "of many different voices in our community" but in the end, strongly supported allowing GSAs to be promoted under the same conditions as any other student group.

Dueck said posters could go up as early as this morning. "Absolutely -- I would expect they will be," he said.

Each school in the division has its own poster policies, but generally, Dueck said, "There are usually specific locations in our schools. Someone in the administration has to sign off."

Steinbach Regional Secondary has security cameras in its hallways, Dueck said. "I expect that all the posters that go up would have cameras on them," he said.

Dueck said the decision was challenging.

"It certainly is a worthy conversation for a community to have," he said, noting that, "We haven't heard a lot from students."

Bill 18 is expected to be law when schools open in September.

The anti-bullying legislation from Education Minister Nancy Allan includes a provision that public schools and any private school receiving public funding must accommodate any student who wishes to start a gay-straight alliance in the school.

Hanover School Division has assured Allan it will comply with the legislation.

But there has been considerable opposition from the Steinbach area. Both Steinbach city council and the RM of Hanover council have asked Allan to review the legislation.

Some people have charged that the bill violates religious freedom.

A prayer meeting opposed to the bill drew 1,200 people to Steinbach Christian High School on Feb. 24.

Earlier that day, Southland Church Pastor Ray Duerksen said in his sermon that God can replace councillors, trustees and other people in prominent public jobs if they do not publicly oppose Bill 18.

 

nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 4, 2013 A3

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Updated on Thursday, April 4, 2013 at 10:47 AM CDT: adds photo

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