Saskatchewan

Regina Public Schools diversity committee report recommends how schools can celebrate Pride

The committee was formed after a motion meant to allow schools to celebrate Pride was defeated in October 2019.

Committee formed after motion meant to allow schools to celebrate Pride defeated in October 2019

A teenage girl holds an I Heart Regina pride sign during the Queen City Pride Parade in 2019. (Heidi Atter/CBC)

A Regina Public School Board diversity committee had released a report detailing actions schools can take to celebrate Pride.

The committee was struck following a contentious vote by the Regina Public School Board in October 2019, when a motion meant to allow schools to celebrate Pride however they saw fit for their school was defeated. The vote was followed by an uproar from people wanting to see things change. 

The report recommends schools be able to apply to fly a Pride flag, that the division should affirm LGBTQ as universal rights and that the division should create a diversity steering committee to help in future decisions. The report also recommends parents be informed at least one week in advance of any Pride activities.

Eric Bell represents Queen City for All, an advocacy group supporting diversity and inclusion throughout the Regina Public Schools. Bell formed the group following the motion's defeat.

He said the recommendations are actions the school board should have already been taking.

"It's good to see that was done but I think there is still a real problem going back to the failed pride motion last fall," Bell said. 

"When the board voted against that motion I think it did create a lot of a lot of damage in the community and destroyed a lot of trust that people had in the school board," Bell said. "That still, in the end, needs to be addressed and atoned for."

A motion regarding Pride was voted down by the Regina Public School Board on Oct. 15, 2019. (Emily Pasiuk/CBC)

Bell said the report also still puts the onus on individual schools to plan Pride events. He said if there were a division direction on celebrating pride, it would help schools be more inclusive. Though he noted the report does give schools more confidence to celebrate Pride if they choose to. 

The report was presented to the Regina Public School Board at their meeting on June 16. At the presentation, Trustee Tanya Foster said students should feel safe in their schools.

"We really do want all students — regardless of race or sexual orientation, gender or anything — we want them to feel safe and included in our schools," she said during the board meeting. 

"It's really important that we're able to, if we need to … update some admin procedure, different things so that we can make these really safe places." 

'It was so much bigger than Pride'

Jacq Brasseur, who is the executive director of the UR Pride Centre for Sexuality and Gender Diversity and was on the committee that produced the report, said the report was well received and is hopeful the board will accept and implement the recommendations. 

"When we look at the work that the committee did, it was so much bigger than Pride celebrations and pride flags," Brasseur said. 

"We talked about a flag, we talked about what does it mean to celebrate Pride in schools and how can we make sure that ... students have that opportunity and that that's protected."  

Jacq Brasseur, left, is the executive director of the UR Pride Centre for Sexuality and Gender Diversity. (CBC News/Alex Soloducha)

Brasseur said the committee also discussed how transgender students can be supported on overnight trips, how students have the right to be called their chosen name in school, and more. 

"What we did is we offered some recommendations to the Regina Public School Board to develop a strong framework of how can we embody gender and sexual diversity and inclusion moving forward — in bigger ways than just during Pride Month."

One aspect Brasseur would like to see addressed is hearing student voices. Brasseur said no one on the committee was a student at a school in the division. 

"So how are we making sure that students' voices are being heard?" Brasseur said. "We can all be talking about how important it is to fly a pride flag, but I'm actually really interested to hear from all the LGBTQ and allied students,"

One of the recommendations is to engage a survey of students and stakeholders on what they currently see and what they want in the future. Brasseur said students may want the board to focus on anti-bullying initiatives of transgender inclusivity initiatives instead of focusing on Pride flags. 

Bell said he would have liked to see who was on the committee that created the report. Brasseur said the list of who was in the committee was not released because the committee did not want to "out" any LGBTQ members unintentionally. 

Bell said looking forward, the school board elections in the fall will be important. He said this process has shown school board positions are important to supporting inclusivity and diversity in schools. 

The report is available publicly on the Regina Public Schools website. 

With files from Emily Pasiuk

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