Edmonton

Education minister vows to 'aggressively pursue' schools that don't follow LGBTQ policies

Education Minister David Eggen says he will “aggressively pursue” schools that refuse to comply with new guidelines to protect LGBTQ students.

Two private Baptist schools in rural Parkland County decry "gay activists" trying to "corrupt" children

Education Minister David Eggen said the government is working to keep up with surging enrolment rates. (CBC)

Education Minister David Eggen says he will "aggressively pursue" schools that refuse to comply with new guidelines to protect LGBTQ students.

"The urgency that's attached to this circumstance, I recognize very clearly," Eggen said Thursday. "So, certainly I will be moving on it very quickly, and you'll see."

Earlier this week, Brian Coldwell, chair of the Independent Baptist Christian Education Society in rural Parkland County, told CBC News the board's two private schools will not follow the policy.

He said he would not allow "gay activists" to undermine religious freedoms or "confuse and corrupt our children."

The remark prompted calls for the Alberta government to withdraw public dollars from Coldwell's schools.

Eggen said he wants to verify media reports first before taking action. He would not give a timeline, but promised the public will hear something "soon."

The minister said he has not heard if other school boards plan to defy the guidelines. 

Mandatory policies

In January, Eggen released guidelines for school boards to use as a basis for developing policies to support LGBTQ students and protect them from bullying and violence.

School boards were given until March 31 to send draft polices to Alberta Education. Only one school board failed to comply by the deadline, though it eventually sent one in. 

The provincial guidelines said students must be allowed to use the washroom they are most comfortable with, and that all schools must have at least one single-stall washroom, but students should not be forced to use it unless they want to.

The policies were also intended to ensure that all school staff are protected from discrimination regardless of their gender identity, sexual orientation and gender expression.

Eggen has faced pushback from religious and Catholic schools, which receive public funds.

Coldwell, the Baptist pastor, said he knows of at least a dozen other school boards that feel the way he does about the guidelines. He said he expects more parents and churches will stand up to the minister. 

He said he would use Christian counselling to help LGBTQ students, which prompted Liberal Leader David Swann to call for a ban on so-called "conversion therapy" throughout the education system. 

About the Author

Michelle Bellefontaine

Provincial affairs reporter

Michelle Bellefontaine covers the Alberta legislature in Edmonton. She has also worked as a reporter in the Maritimes and in northern Canada. You can reach her at michelle.bellefontaine @cbc.ca.