Waterloo students push Catholic school board to fly Pride flag
Waterloo Catholic District School Board says its won't fly rainbow flag due to rules around flag protocol
A group of students at St. David Catholic Secondary School in Waterloo have started a petition calling on the school board to raise the Pride flag.
The Waterloo Catholic District School Board (WCDSB) says it has decided not to fly the rainbow flag during Pride month in June because of its rules around flag protocol.
But student Lauren Ehrenworth says the flag is an important symbol, that shows it's okay to be part of the LGBTQ community.
"People who haven't come out to their family and friends are scared to do that, because they're afraid of what's going to happen to them," said Ehrenworth, who is 15-years-old and in grade 10.
"They're afraid they're going to get bullied or kicked out of their home. And to know that your school supports you and that you are able to go there is an amazing feeling."
Ehrenworth says by not flying the flag, it feels like Pride is being hidden instead of being celebrated.
The online petition had more than 200 signatures as of Tuesday afternoon. Ehrenworth said they also have nearly 300 signatures on a paper petition.
Board policy to only fly Canadian flag
In a statement emailed to CBC News, the board said it's had a policy to not fly any other flag except the Canadian flag since 2013.
The decision was made after the board was approached by a group of veterans.
"These veterans strongly believed that flying any flag on the same pole as the National Flag was disrespectful to the memory of those who had fought and died under both the old Red Ensign and then the Maple Leaf," the statement said.
The board added that it "has focused efforts on creating inclusive communities that respect the dignity of each individual person through the work that is occurring in WCDSB schools," pointing to the Respect and Equality for Allies and LGBTQ+ (REAL) club at St. David's as an example.
In a follow-up email, WCDSB spokesperson John Shewchuck said REAL is planning several activities for Pride week, including a "Rainbow Sock Day," and that the rainbow flag will still be displayed in the school.
'A first big step'
Ehrenworth said her group met with REAL on Monday and brainstormed ideas. On Tuesday, they wrote positive messages in chalk outside the school.
But Ehrenworth said their ultimate goal is still to have a Pride flag flying outside the school.
She also noted that in public school, which she attended for one year, there were many more activities during Pride month.
"They had a drag queen come to the school, and they had people talk and come into the school. We had a whole festival and it was really supportive for anyone who's part of the community," she said.
"That's what we want for the Catholic school board, but we know that's a long way. Just getting this Pride flag up is a big first step and I think that it's going to be a huge achievement."
The group plans to submit their petition to the school board soon, and Ehrenworth said they plan to keep fighting until the Pride flag is flown.