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Social Issues
Manitoba High School Student Wins Battle Over Gay-Straight Alliances
April 4, 2013
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A high school student in Manitoba has won a month long battle over gay rights.

Evan Wiens, who is 17 and gay, set up a gay-straight alliance last month at his high school in Steinbach, southeast of Winnipeg.

However, he wasn't allowed to put up posters in the halls to promote meetings, like other groups did.

Evan didn't care - he put up the posters anyway, they'd get taken down, he'd put them up again, and so on.

This past Tuesday night, Evan was granted a 10 minute closed-door meeting with officials for the Hanover School Division.

At the time, he told CBC News "I just want to give them a message of why it's so important now to start the advertising, and change the policy now."

Well, whatever Evan said, it worked. The Board overturned the school's policy and said Evan can put up posters promoting the alliance.

In a statement, Board superintendent Randy Dueck said, "A Gay/Straight Alliance may advertise events in a manner equivalent to their school's existing student initiated groups."

"Each school has developed their own advertising policies. What we're really interested in is that a gay-straight alliance is treated the same as other existing groups in the school," Dueck said.

manitoba-high-school-student-wins-battle-over-gay-straight-alliances-feature1.jpg After the decision, Evan said he was overwhelmed and overjoyed.

"It's important that they're not allowing extra advertisement or less advertisement. It's really important... that all groups are able to advertise the exact same way," he said.

Evan said the idea is to make gay students feel more safe and accepted.

It hasn't been an easy road for Evan. As the Canadian Press reports, during recent TV interviews on the street, he was "taunted by some of his peers as cameras rolled."

"I identified them and let my school know who they were, but from what I know, they haven't been talked to," Evan told CP.

"I'm hoping I can work together with the school to not just promote the (alliance), but also eliminate that type of bullying and comments being made."

The Manitoba government has introduced an anti-bullying bill that would force schools to accommodate groups that promote diversity, including gay-straight alliances.

Some religious leaders and politicians have called the proposed law a violation of freedom of religion.

The bill includes online bullying in its definition and it would require schools to set up diversity policies to promote equality.

Principals and school officials would decide whether or not bullies should be punished and what the punishment should be.

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