A school board west of Toronto is expected to discuss this week whether to allow the rainbow flag to be raised outside district schools during Pride Month this summer.
The request to fly the flag in June at schools with the Peel District School Board was made last year by a group representing LGBTQ teachers and other employees.
A current policy allows only Canadian and Ontario flags to be flown at schools. The board’s chair says some trustees are concerned granting the rainbow flag request would open the door to other groups seeking permission for different flags, with the board wanting to ensure it is fair to everyone.
The Pride Employee Resource Group, which made the request, said it is surprised at the pace at which the request is being processed.
“We were led to believe that the board would work on changing the policy,” said Carol Speers, a former school superintendent who now works with the Pride group. “We understood that this process was occurring through the fall, and for some reason it has gotten stalled.”
The issue will be under the spotlight at a board meeting on Tuesday, with trustees expected to make a decision two weeks later.
Many schools in the Toronto area already fly the rainbow flag, either during Pride month in June or on the International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia in May.
Speers said the Peel board is generally very inclusive, and has done good work to fight anti-black racism and encourage Indigenous education. She also cited moves the board has made to support and accommodate LGBTQ students and staff, such as instituting a Pink Shirt Day and gender-neutral washrooms.
“A next symbolic equity move would be to do the raising of the flag,” Speers said.”When we got to January and February, and nothing’s happening, we started to say, ‘What’s going on?'”
Janet McDougald, the chair of the Peel board, said Tuesday’s meeting will be the first time trustees hear a formal request to raise the Pride flag.
“Some trustees are concerned about process, as to other people wanting ‘space on the flagpole,’ so to speak, to celebrate or recognize their organizations,” McDougald said.
“If we include the Pride flag, then I think the board would want to include other organizations,” she said. “We want to make sure we are fair and equitable to everybody.”
Trustee Robert Crocker said he’s received a number of emails and tweets on the issue from constituents and board employees.
“Every single one has been … asking us to raise the Pride flag,” said Crocker, although he echoed McDougald’s comments that there could be other groups who want to raise their flags.
After news of the upcoming board meeting came to light last week, an online campaign took shape urging the Peel board to approve raising the Pride flag. On Saturday, the board tweeted that it “has always been willing to hear from and work with the communities” it serves.
Speers, who will make one of three presentations to trustees at Tuesday’s board meeting, said the Pride group is “not naive enough” to think everyone would support flying the Pride flag. But there is a large community that does back the request, she said.
“I think there’s more education that needs to be done,” she said. “Hopefully some of that will happen on Tuesday night.”