Equality Alliance Celebrates Diversity of La Salle Student Body

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This school year has brought with it a groundbreaking new group to La Salle: the Equality Alliance. According to Mr. Devine, this is “a broad, inclusive support group for students around issues of gender, sexuality, race, culture and religion.”

The idea of the Equality Alliance came about last year when Mr. Devine and a group of students attended an LGBTQ symposium at Central Catholic where they heard how different schools were supporting diversity within their communities.

“Our students returned with a strong desire to initiate an organization devoted to providing support for diverse groups of students and spreading awareness about issues related to diversity,” Mr Devine explained. “This was a student-led initiative.”

One student who has been greatly involved in starting the program is senior Zoe Wilber. She sees the Equality Alliance as something bigger than just La Salle — and instead sees this group as concrete evidence of the progression of society.

“This program means that not just our school of La Salle but our whole entire world is progressing towards a more beautiful, colorful, proud, and confident society,” Wilber stated. “The fact that we have a small private Catholic school in Oregon that is willing to start a program that reaches out to all sorts of minority groups — that to me is beautiful.”

Wilber strongly believes in the need for the Equality Alliance here at La Salle. “We have a small student body but I think we still have people that really do need a place where they feel like they can express who they are and feel safe and talk about issues that matter,” Wilber stated. “So this is kind of a huge social justice oriented program and we need that.”

Wilber isn’t the only student excited about the Equality Alliance. “When I came to La Salle, I was worried I may not be accepted for who I was,” stated junior Grant Starr. “I saw that it’s a private, Catholic school and my immediate assumption was that they will be in some way anti-LGBT. But it’s the complete opposite.”

Starr went on to say, “I think that the Equality Alliance will help people be able to see that the administration is accepting of all La Salle students, and it will give a voice to those who feel marginalized in other communities and make them feel safe and heard in their own school.”

One part of the Equality Alliance that Starr is specifically looking forward to is what the group is calling their forums. “These are events we will be holding about once a month where we choose a particular topic related to equality and social issues, find a teacher willing to host in their classroom and foster discussion, and open it up to any students who’d like to come in on a late start morning and have a thoughtful discussion about these issues,” he said. Starr is excited to use these forums to connect with people in the La Salle community.

While many are excited about the new program this year, the mere presence of a group like the Equality Alliance presents many issues for a Catholic institution like La Salle. As many people know, the Catholic Church has longstanding views that are generally against homosexuality, including a specific doctrine opposing same-sex marriage. As a result, one might question if La Salle is truly following in its Catholic values in supporting the Equality Alliance.

However, Mr. Seth Altshuler, one of La Salle’s counselors, and a supporter of the Equality Alliance, believes that the school is actually very much following in the example of the Catholic faith.

“I think what [La Salle is doing] is very much in line with the philosophies of loving all people,” Mr. Altshuler said. “I think we’re walking the right line of both being mindful of the religious component, but also mindful of the nature of society these days.”

“People presume that Catholic schools may not have gay and lesbian alliances or equality alliances or anything of that sort,” stated Altshuler. “The truth is that that’s not actually accurate and there are a number of schools in the area that are doing a really good job with this. It’s great, it’s how it should be.”

Altshuler’s claim is supported by the fact that La Salle is actually one of the last Catholic schools in the area to develop a program like the Equality Alliance. Saint Mary’s Academy already has what they call SAFE, Jesuit has Unity, and Central Catholic, like La Salle, has the Equality Alliance. Although the names may differ, each of these programs is designed to provide a safe space for students to express their individuality and diversity within their school communities.

While many at La Salle might believe that the Equality Alliance is only for LGBTQ students, that is not the case. Both Wilber and Mr. Altshuler explained that this program is truly about equality; it is a place for students to celebrate diversity of all kinds.

“It is incumbent upon us to assure that all students feel valued, respected and supported during their time at La Salle,” Mr. Devine explained. “It’s also vital that we educate our students and our staff about issues and concerns that are relevant to many of our young people and provide room for a dialogue to occur around these issues.”

For students wanting to join the Equality Alliance or learn more about it, they can contact Zoe Wilber by sending her a Schoology message.

“I think [the Equality Alliance] is really going to show that La Salle is open to all sorts of people,” Wilber stated. “And that’ll be kind of like a living symbol, for where we want to go for years to come.”