Toronto

All 9 Halton Catholic high schools show support for LGBT students after board says no to Pride flag

All nine high schools in the Halton Catholic School Board District tweeted messages of acceptance, tolerance and diversity after board trustees decided on Monday against flying the Pride flag at its schools in June.

Halton Catholic District School Board voted against flying Pride flag at its schools in June

At a special meeting on Monday, Halton Catholic District School Board trustees voted against a motion to fly the Pride flag at schools in June, amending it substantially. All of the board's high schools, however, took to Twitter to show they disagree with the decision. (Eduardo Lima/The Canadian Press)

All nine high schools in the Halton Catholic School Board District tweeted messages of acceptance, tolerance and diversity after the school board trustees decided on Monday against flying the Pride flag at its schools in June.

Some of the schools changed their logos to include rainbow colours to show support for LGBT students. 

Kirsten Kelly, the Burlington student trustee on the board, said on Wednesday the fight to fly the flag is not over yet.

Kelly, who is also the public affairs co-ordinator with the Ontario Student Trustees' Association, started a petition a few weeks ago to support the board flying the Pride flag in June. The petition has garnered more than 18,000 signatures.

"There's still a huge momentum going. There's still people in the community sending letters to our board trustees."

Kelly said a special meeting of school board trustees held on Monday lasted nearly four hours and the outcome was extremely disappointing. Kelly said the meeting was marked by delays and interruptions.

"It's just really frustrating and goes to show that a lot of people don't want to move forward and they are very set back in their ways in trying to defend the fact the 2SLGBTQ+ community shouldn't be supported by the Catholic community. And it's just full of bigotry and hatred, which is not what the Bible says."

'We weren't acknowledged,' student trustee says

Kelly said the idea of flying the Pride flag in June at schools came from a student delegate, Nicole Hotchkiss, who's in Grade 12 at Oakville's St. Ignatius of Loyola Catholic Secondary School. Hotchkiss presented the idea at a board meeting on April 6.

"They mentioned it because the representation of students in Halton Catholic is very invisible and we weren't acknowledged," Kelly said.

"They brought it up because many students don't feel safe in their own school environments because of the homophobia and the transphobia from staff and students alike ... Having a Pride flag up would be a symbolic show of support from our Catholic community that shows that we care, we listen and we acknowledge you." 

WATCH | CBC Toronto's Ali Chiasson reports on reaction to the board vote on Monday:

Halton Catholic District School Board votes against motion to fly Pride flag in June

1 year ago
Duration 2:06
The Halton Catholic District School Board has voted against flying the Rainbow Pride flag in front of schools during Pride Month this June. As Ali Chiasson reports, some who attended the board meeting on Monday are frustrated — but support for LGBTQ students is pouring in.

At the Monday meeting, trustees voted against a motion to fly the Pride flag at schools in June, amending it substantially.

Then the trustees passed a motion requiring the board to provide mandatory training for senior staff on supporting students who identify as 2SLGBTQ+, to raise awareness around Pride month, and to post "safe space poster signage" to ensure that students in the 2SLGBTQ+ community are supported throughout the school year.

The mandatory training is be completed by the 2021-2022 school year if not sooner.

Kelly called these measures are "baby steps" and "points of progress" but there is still need for unconditional acceptance of students — "fully as you are" — and that the lack of acceptance is hurtful.

Kelly said she will continue to advocate that the board fully support 2SLGBTQ+ students.

Kirsten Kelly is shown here standing in a classroom. (Submitted by Kirsten Kelly)

"The time to act and the time to advocate does not end today and did not end yesterday and we need to continue to do it until everyone in all marginalized communities feel safe to be who they are."

Alexandra Power, a mother of three, two of whom attend Halton Catholic schools, said the board doesn't have community support for its decision. Power is also a physician who focuses on student health. She said the Pride flag is a symbol of acceptance.

"The trustees who are opposed to raising the Pride flag are using their own personal compasses to guide the decision and aren't listening to their communities," Power said. 

"Our children are asking for this. Our families are asking for this. Our educators are asking for this. And yet the trustees still said no."

Power said the mental well-being and development of all of the students is at stake here.

"Where we go from here is we keep on fighting until we have a community that is fully inclusive of everyone of every gender orientation, sexual orientation, religious background. We need inclusivity," she said.

Power said the Pride flag will fly at every school in Halton Catholic board eventually.

"No one should have to go to school, to work, to anywhere, and feel that they can't be 100 per cent of who they want to be." 

With files from Ali Chiasson and Muriel Draaisma

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