11/06/2015 19:09 EST | Updated 11/06/2016 01:12 EDT

Education minister tells Alberta schools to come up with LGBTQ policy

EDMONTON — Alberta's education minister has sent a letter to school boards in the province reminding them that provincial law requires them to create a safe learning environment for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer students.

David Eggen says the boards must have policies in place and Alberta Education will be reviewing them to make sure there is evidence of support for the establishment of gay-straight alliances and queer-straight alliances.

He says the province doesn't anticipate that every school will have an alliance, but he wants to know that every board has a procedure in place should a student request that an alliance be established in his or her school.

Eggen's letter was sent to the boards of public, separate, francophone and charter schools.

He says schools have until March 31 to comply.

Eggen says all students and staff deserve to be treated with respect and dignity and learning environments must respect diversity and foster a sense of belonging.

"To all students looking for safe and caring schools, this government stands with you and will support you," he says.

Last month, Eggen stepped in to a feud among Edmonton Catholic school trustees who disagreed on a policy to protect gay and transgender students, announcing he had hired an outside adviser to help the board pass an inclusive policy.

He also said he hadn't ruled out dissolving the board if it fails to meet expectations.

Asked at the time why he didn't implement a provincewide policy on transgender and same-sex equality issues, Eggen would only say he expects all school boards to implement policies in line with existing legislation.

Kris Wells with the University of Alberta's Institute for Sexual Minority Studies has said only eight of Alberta's 61 school divisions have LGBTQ policies _ none is Catholic.