An Ontario school board’s plan to raise the rainbow flag in schools to celebrate Pride Week in June has been met with some resistance.
The LGBTQ staff committee at the Peel District School Board, west of Toronto, said that in the fall, it had been led to believe that the Pride flag would be raised in schools next month, but the chair of the board said she has heard concerns.
The issue will be raised at Tuesday’s board meeting when trustees hear from delegates in favour of a recommendation to raise Pride flags in schools and at the board office.
Many school districts, including Toronto, York and Durham, fly Pride flags in their schools either in May to celebrate International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia or in June for Pride month.
The Peel board has been at the forefront on issues of equity and inclusion, including supports for struggling black male students and more recently standing up to anti-Muslim rhetoric over Friday prayers in schools. The concerns raised around the Pride flag has caught some off guard.
“If you’re for equity and inclusion, it can’t be for A and B and not C,” said Carol Speers, a member of the committee and a recently retired superintendent of education for the Peel board. “That flag is a symbol of acceptance. And I believe that to the staff and students at the Peel board, it signals that you are safe, you are welcome [and] we will support you.”
Janet McDougald, the chair of the Peel board, said on Thursday that the issue was raised with trustees recently but it has not been on the public agenda until now. She noted “there is some concern about it.”
She said that the board has a policy to fly the Canadian flag and the provincial flag. “But that doesn’t mean we cannot change that policy to accommodate [the Pride flag],” Ms. McDougald added.
Peel school trustee David Green said he has received calls and e-mails about the issue. He said one e-mail from a student urged him to support the recommendation of Pride flags in schools, while he said that two others reminded him that he represented the views of parents and children in his community. Mr. Green said that he has heard that some Peel employees are not in favour of raising the flag.
“The message that I’m getting over e-mails is that they’re just reminding me basically [of] my role and my responsibility,” he said.
Mr. Green said he would make his position on the issue clear at the boardroom table. He added: “There’s a lot of concerns ... as a board we have to listen to all voices.”
Another trustee, Nokha Dakroub, said she has not taken a position on the issue as it’s too early in the process. She said that she is waiting to hear from the delegates next week and receive more input from staff.
“We have to see how much it could potentially cost, right? ... That’s the major thing, to see how much it will cost, if there’s a cost attached to it,” she said.
Ms. Speers said she is aware that some trustees may be responding to concerns from their communities. But she added: “We’re trying to let them know that there’s a wider community out there ... that would like to see this happen.”