365 Pride: Tillsonburg students raise region's first permanent Pride flag

Students at a rural southwestern Ontario high school watched with smiles and applause as their mascot Griff the Gryphon raised a permanent pride flag for the first time this morning.

The year-round display is the first of its kind for the Thames Valley District School Board

Students and staff celebrate the raising of a permanent Pride flag being raised at their school. (Glen Woodburn)

Students at a rural southwestern Ontario high school watched with smiles and applause as their mascot Griff the Gryphon raised the school board's first permanent Pride flag Thursday morning.

The decision to fly the rainbow-coloured inclusive flag was made after a request from Glendale High School's Gay Straight Alliance. 

"They definitely are so happy," said Matthew Reid, Chair of the Thames Valley District School Board who attended the morning ceremony in Tillsonburg.

Reid said it's the first year-round Pride flag to fly for the TVDSB and believes it's the first permanent Pride flag for any school in Southwestern Ontario. 

"I think it's really touching to see how far we've come as a society," he told CBC News. 

The school paired money from a public donation and student fundraising to pay for the flag pole, a garden and new sign for the high school. 

Reid said it was an inspiration to watch the students make such a public display of support. 

"To have these students who are so comfortable with themselves recognize that something like flying the Pride flag -  regardless of their sexual orientation and gender identity - is all about love and acceptance and supporting each other."

All Requests Considered 

Reid said it took a few months to make the GSA's request a reality and said the board is open to any other suggestions the promote inclusivity. 

"We will evaluate other requests as we go forward but for now this was something that came from the students that were at that school," said Reid.

He said that the TVDSB is open to evaluating ideas from all groups that could spread awareness to their cause but hasn't seen any requests. 

"Not as of yet," said Reid. "I think a lot of people recognize that there's still a lot of homophobia and a lot of ground that we as a society need to make with the LGBQT+ community."

Reid said schools in the TVDSB also raised flags on May 17 in honour of the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia.

Proud Moment

Reid said that the school board was happy to be able to meet the GSA's request before the end of the school year and hopes it facilities discussions about inclusivity. 

"Pride week happens when our schools are out so I think this is a great way to show that our students are accepted all year round," said Reid. 

"It will also help spur some discussion - some difficult ones at times - to have students talk about the issues that are affecting their classmates and even themselves."

The board office also raised the pride flag today. 

Pride week starts July 20th.