The fight to fly the Pride flag at catholic schools in Oakville, Burlington and Milton may not be over quite yet.
All nine high schools in the Halton Catholic District School Board District (HCDSB) took to Twitter this week to let the local trustees know about their support for the 2SLGBTQIA+ students, while catholic students themselves penned an open letter stating they were “appalled” by the decision at the Monday trustee meeting to not fly the flag outside at schools this June.
The letter was signed by 2SLGBTQIA+ students of Halton with support from government members including Burlington Mayor Meed Ward, Member of Parliament for Oakville Anita Anand, Member of Parliament for Burlington Karina Gould, Member of Parliament for Milton Adam Van Koeverden and Member of Parliament for Oakville North-Burlington Pam Damoff.
“We the 2SLGBTQIA+ students of Halton are calling on the HCDSB to reverse their hateful decision and fly the flag this June,” Halton student Caleb Smolenaars said in a tweet on Thursday.
The students said this wasn’t a matter of opinion, but one of justice and support for queer students who have faced decades of harassment, abuse and hate for their gender identity and sexual orientation.
“The pride flag represents diversity and inclusivity for all members of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community and allies,” the students said in the open letter. “By not flying the flag during the month of June, you are creating a space for homophobia, transphobia and hate in our schools.
“You are telling students, staff and families that they don’t matter.”
Many of the nine catholic schools changed their logos to include the rainbow colours of the Pride flag.
Assumption Catholic Secondary School in Burlington was one of the local catholic school voicing its support for the 2SLGBTQIA+ students.
“Whoever walks thru our doors is part of our community,” they tweeted earlier this week. “As a community, we are here to love and serve all of God’s children. We want all students and staff to know that Assumption is a safe and inclusive place.”
Oakville’s St. Ignatius of Loyola Catholic Secondary School tweeted out a colourful saying by E.E Cummings stating, “It takes courage to grow up and be who you really are.”
“You are beautiful as you are,” the school said in its tweet. “Created in God’s image and infinite love. Let’s work to ensure Loyola is a place where everyone feels they belong. We have to work to do to ensure everyone is truly treated with dignity, equity and respect.
“Let’s support our Hawk Family.”
While the students said they welcomed the proposal to further educate teachers on 2SLGBTQIA+ issues, it is no substitution for flying the pride flag.
“By flying the pride flag you demonstrate to the community that your schools are safe places where students, staff and families are seen and supported,” the letter said. “By not flying the flag, you are telling the community that 2SLGBTQIA+ students, staff and families are not seen and do not matter.”
The students want to know why the decision was made and what will be done to make sure they are fully supported.
“Will the trustees of the Halton Catholic School board stand up for the rights of the students they’re supposed to serve and fly the Pride flag this June?,” the students asked in wrapping up the letter.
People in the community continue to send letters to the school board trustees voicing their support after a four-hour long meeting that included delays and outbursts saw trustees vote against a motion to fly the Pride flag.
Trustees did pass a motion that will see the board provide mandatory training for staff on supporting students who identify as 2SLGBTQIA+. This will be done before the completion of the 2021-22 school year.
Nicole Hotchkiss, a Grade 12 student at Oakville’s St. Ignatius school, presented the idea to fly the Pride flag this June at a board meeting on April 6.