'It's 10 steps backward': School's Pride flag burned in southeast Saskatchewan

Students in a small Saskatchewan town had a rough start to their day when they found out their Pride flag had been burned.

Students, officials say it won't deter their efforts to make school inclusive

A flag is carried during the Regina Pride Parade on June 15, 2019. A rainbow Pride flag was burned Wednesday outside a school in Stoughton, Sask. (Heidi Atter/CBC)

Students in a small Saskatchewan town had a rough start to their day when they found out their Pride flag had been burned.

The Stoughton Central School just had its flag-raising ceremony Monday. The rainbow-coloured flag was pulled down from its pole and burned early Wednesday morning, say RCMP.

RCMP confirm an investigation is underway in the community 140 kilometres southeast of Regina.

Grade 9 student Nikita Nahbexie, the head board member of the school's gay-straight alliance club, said students are devastated.

She said burning the Pride flag is appalling.

Students want everyone to feel safe

"It's disgusting, because we're trying to get kids to feel safe and that they're accepted at this school," she said Wednesday.

"And having this flag burned—it's 10 steps backward." 

She and fellow GSA board member Jessica Baumgartner said they don't know who is responsible.

"We are not aware of who saw it last. We just know that it was up, and when we got to school this morning, it was on the ground," Nahbexie said.

She said a Grade 7 student who's out as gay was quite upset.

"She was in tears and completely hurt, because she knows kids who are in the closet, and it's painful to her to see her flag being burned," Nahbexie said. "That's something she took pride in."

June is Pride month.

Nahbexie said the flag-burning works against the intent of the school's GSA to "raise awareness, have everyone come in to support each other and let people know they're safe."

Keith Keating, the deputy director with the South East Cornerstone Public school division, said the school division has taken the initiative to promote diversities and gay-straight alliances in schools.

Students are the major force and driver behind events like flag raisings for Pride month, he said.

"The school division and school are both disappointed in the act, but it won't deter the school nor the rest of the school division from maintaining equality for all students, respect and fairness for all schools within our division," Keating said of the flag burning.

He said that the school division had not been aware or heard any complaints or concerns about the flag, before it was destroyed. 

"For the most part, we found people are very accepting and supportive."

with files from Janani Whitfield