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York Catholic students plan June 8 walkout over Pride dispute

'We will not be set aside,' student group says after school board refuses to fly Pride flag
Intersex-Inclusive Progress Pride Flag.

Some York Catholic District School Board students are preparing walk out over the board’s decision not to raise the Pride Flag.

A new Instagram account called “YCDSB Students for Change” emerged this week to post about a walkout scheduled for June 8.

The post asks students to leave classes at 1:15 p.m. and wear Pride colours to support 2SLGBTQIA+. 

“The YCDSB has shown us that they do not value their students, staff, and community members. We must act now,” the post said. “There is no time to wait for next year or the year after when 2SLGBTQ+ students are suffering.”

The board has garnered widespread condemnation for its decision May 29 not to fly a Pride flag, despite the pleas of student trustees.

Board chair Frank Alexander cited his faith and the opposition of some Archdiocese bishops in his vote opposing the flag raising.

The board has said it still works to support 2SLGBTQ+ and posted on Twitter to recognize and support Pride, saying it loves and "sees" its 2SLGBTQIA+ students.

In response to the protest announcement, the board said students have a right to peaceful assembly and protest.

“Lessons, classes and activities continue as usual in all YCDSB schools if there is a demonstration,” the board said. “If students miss tests or assignments during a walkout, it will be a local decision made on a case-by-case basis to determine how/if the work can be made up.”

Other forms of protest and support for Pride have carried on this week. Student trustees Jonah James posted a picture of himself and other students holding up Pride flag this week while on a school trip to Saskatchewan to learn about reconciliation.

“Pride is a month of celebration and accepting our identity,” James said. “As the world continues to accept everyone for who they are, some continue to hold back. We must continue the fight and never give up.”

Meanwhile, York Catholic teachers union president Mike Totten wrote a strongly worded letter to the board and trustees June 1 criticizing the Pride flag decision.

“As a lifelong and devout Catholic, it is embarrassing to watch a majority of voting trustees hide behind the symbols of our faith in an effort to justify homophobia, transphobia and bigotry,” Totten said. “This is the ultimate act of cowardice and the very antithesis of Catholic values that my members teach our students.”

Board trustees opposing the Pride flag argued that raising it would not solve bullying. A bishop from the Archdiocese of Toronto also opposed raising the flag and said although it represents affirmation and acceptance, it can also represent other things like support for gay marriage, which the church does not accept. 

The YCDSB Students for Change asked students to show pride at the walkout.

“We need to show the YCDSB that we care, and we will not be set aside.”