Thursday, February 28, 2013

Canadian Teen Determined To Start Gay-Straight Alliance

Evan Wiens via CBC News
By Brody Levesque | STEINBACH, CANADA -- A 16 year old high school student in Manitoba province has told everyone who will listen that he will take whatever steps necessary to ensure gay and lesbian students at his school are supported. Evan Wiens, who acknowledges that he is the only openly gay student at Steinbach Regional Secondary School, is determined to form a Gay-Straight Alliance club which he hopes will encourage other LGBTQ youth in his school to come forward.
"There is probably a lot of other students at the school that are closeted, and I just want them to be able to feel safe at school and not experience any of the things I experienced," Wiens told CBC News on Thursday.
Weins' plans had run into opposition according as some religious educators and others in Steinbach have recently spoken out against Bill 18, the Manitoba provincial government's anti-bullying bill, because a clause in the recently proposed legislation requires schools to accommodate students who want to start anti-bullying clubs, including gay-straight alliances. Opponents claim that the proposed law infringes on their religious freedoms.
Nearly 1,000 staff, students and parents from the Steinbach Christian High School met Sunday to discuss the impending bill and its ramifications for the community at large.
Wiens is undeterred by the backlash saying that he will start the GSA at his school adding that adminstrators have green lighted his plan. 
"Steinbach's a very religious, conservative community, and I'm really concerned about what these students are feeling like in their homes … that they feel that they really can't come out," Wiens said. "I just want to be able to at least have a place at school that they feel safe."
The local school administration, Hanover School Division, which includes Steinbach Regional Secondary School, said in a short statement that it's "committed to accommodating all students in a positive school environment that is inclusive and accepting of all pupils,” and that, "The division continues to educate all students about the importance of a safe and caring school culture." In the spirit of this statement, Hanover School Division did make the decision a year ago to accommodate students requesting a Gay Straight Alliance in our public high schools.
Not everyone is supportive as a local man, Manitoba musician Robb Nash claims that both the proposed bill and the formation of a GSA is missing the point. According to Nash, GSA's in schools focus on people's differences, rather than their similarities.
"They shouldn't have one little group where people have now chosen whether they're going to be part of this or not," he said. "If we're going to do that, if we're going to focus on the differences, then we should have a black-white alliance, a short-tall alliance, a fat-skinny alliance, a pimpled-non-pimpled alliance."
Nash added that some students have told him having gay-straight alliances in schools have made things worse for them, as people ending up choosing sides.