London

Should the London District Catholic School Board raise the Pride Flag?

Friday marks the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. The Thames Valley District School Board will celebrate by raising pride flags at each of its schools, but the London District Catholic School Board will not.

Friday marks the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia

Friday, May 17 marks International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. (Nancy Russell/CBC)

London's two school boards are taking very different approaches to the Pride flag.

Friday, May 17, marks the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia.

For the second year in a row, all schools within the the Thames Valley District School Board (TVDSB) will be given a Pride flag to raise in recognition of the day.

Schools within the London District Catholic School Board (LDCSB) will not.

"Our practice is to fly only the national or provincial or Franco-Ontario flags," said Kathy Furlong, superintendent of education with the LDCSB.

"We've had requests from other groups in the past to fly their flags, to raise awareness about their issue or their concern and we've consistently followed our practice of flying only [those] flags."

Some in the Catholic board support a Pride flag

The London District Catholic School Board says it raises national, provincial and Franco-Ontario flags. (Paula Duhatschek/CBC)

The LDCSB's hard and fast policy around flags has been a disappointment to some parents and students within the board.

Amanda Costella sits on the parent council at Notre Dame Catholic School, and was part of a group of parents who wanted the school to join in raising the flag on Friday.

When the group raised the issue at their March meeting, school administration said it would consider raising the flag inside the school, if not outdoors.

But when the issue was raised again at the next parent meeting, administration kiboshed the idea entirely, Costella said. Instead, the school said its Faith in Action team would host a day of inclusivity, centered around the theme of loving each others' differences.

"It is disappointing," said Costella, who added that she wants the school board to be more overt in its support of LGBTQ+ students.

"I think it's very powerful and very important that we actually name that, and show our support in a more visible and official way than just saying we believe in diversity and inclusivity."

Meghan Simpson, an 18-year-old who attends Catholic Central High School (CCH) said she, too, would like to see her school board raise the flag.

"I know that we have people who are [LGBTQ] at our school," she said. "So if we have them, they are CCH people, we should represent them."

Pride flag to fight discrimination: TVDSB

The flag raising is still a relatively new event at TVDSB, according to Sheila Powell, the school board's superintendent of student achievement.

While certain schools had independently raised a Pride flag on their own, last year was the first time all schools were asked to do so, Powell said.

"Last year was the first year that we said, 'This is important and we're asking all schools to make that very public display of equity and inclusion,'" she said.

The Thames Valley District School Board is providing all schools with a Pride flag for Friday. (Paula Duhatschek/CBC)

Former TVDSB chair Matt Reid said some of the students he spoke with about the flag raising said it was the first time they'd seen themselves represented in such a public way.

"I think that's important, not just for students, but their parents and the community at large to know that they are accepted and they are welcome," Reid said, who noted that each Pride flag cost about $5.

As for the LDCSB's practice of only flying national, provincial and Franco-Ontario flags, Reid said he'd like to see the board move in "the opposite direction" by featuring more flags, not less.

"To try to exclude everyone with a blanket policy just ends up pushing people further away instead of bringing them in together," he said.

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