News / Edmonton

Edmonton's Catholic school board needs to change its tune on GSAs: Trustee

Outrage from parents and teachers has prompted one of Edmonton’s Catholic School trustees to question the district's stance on Gay-Straight Alliances.

The province’s Catholic school boards have collectively agreed to hold back on encouraging students start GSA clubs in school, opting instead to support inclusive clubs that everyone could be a part of.

But according to ECS trustee Patricia Grell, that’s not fair to the district’s LGBTQ students.

Grell — who admitted she was ignorant to the concept of GSAs at first — said she was prompted to investigate the issue further after receiving a deluge of complaints from district parents and teachers about the board’s position.

“Appalled was the word that the majority of people used as a description,” said Grell, referencing the reaction from the community about comments made by ECS board chair Debbie Engel to media about GSAs.

Grell, who recently penned a blog post about the clubs, said the district needs to reconsider their stance on GSAs to consider what's best for vulnerable students.

“I... learned that they are not sex groups or dating clubs but “identity clubs” for students who identify as LGBTQ and their straight friends,” Grell wrote on her website.

Grell said the district not only needs to change the way it thinks about GSAs, but approach the subject in a way unique to the Catholic system.

“If we were to have GSAs in our school, we certainly would have them in a Catholic perspective,” she said.

St. Joseph High School student Lauren White said Grell wasn’t the only one shocked to hear the district’s take on GSAs.

Right after she read Engel's comments, White, 16, kicked off an online petition to lobby for GSAs in the province’s Catholic school, collecting more than 200 signatures since Friday.

“I really love the Edmonton Catholic School district,” said White. “I’ve been a part of it since kindergarten and I know that the board members are really understanding. I just think that they’re misguided on this issue. I think they need to trust students to know what they want.”

Identifying as straight, White said GSAs are important to better understand the LGBTQ community.

“I still know there’s more I could learn and there’s more I’d like to know, but I feel like for everyone in the school community it would be beneficial,” she said.

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