Tempers flare at Catholic school board debate over raising Pride flag

Police were called to manage the crowd at the YCDSB meeting about whether to raise the Pride flag at its schools for Pride Month. Michelle Mackey reports from the packed and heated board meeting.

By Michael Talbot and Michelle Mackey

Security guards removed angry parents from a Catholic school board meeting in Aurora on Tuesday night after tempers flared during a debate over raising the Pride flag.

The York Catholic District School Board (YCDSB) was debating whether or not to raise the flag at its schools for Pride month in June.

The agenda item was discussed in a packed board meeting that quickly boiled over.

Security guards removed audience members following the first speaker, but the ruckus spilled out into the hallway where angry parents could be heard chanting “Shame!”

In a statement to CityNews, the YCDSB says after the first delegation spoke, a number of members of the public gallery became disruptive and were asked to the leave the Board Room.

“Many members of the public then remained in the atrium of the Board Office, where the situation required the police to attend to ensure the safety of all members of the public,” the YCDSB said.

The board added many individuals then left without being asked to do so once police arrived.

TCDSB teacher and parent, Paolo De Buono, told CityNews he was set to speak in favour of raising the flag, but says he received an email Tuesday morning from the YCDSB canceling his delegation.

“It’s so important for students to see themselves reflected in their school board,” he argued. “It’s for their safety, it’s for their learning.”

De Buono said the email from the board said: “Based on your speaking notes, your delegation will not be heard at tonight’s board meeting.”

When asked why he wasn’t allowed to speak, YCDSB spokesperson, Mark Brosens, said after reviewing his speaking notes, “we thought that it did not fit with the Catholic values of the school system.”

De Buono argued there was nothing problematic about his speaking notes, which he also shared online.

“They are not offensive, they are right on point. I was specific in saying for example that while this is a good idea, flying the Pride flag, I’m not naïve that this is going to solve all their problems in terms of systemic homophobia and transphobia.”

The YCDSB says it is continuing to have ongoing conversations with a number of stakeholders about whether or not to fly the Pride Flag in June.

“There was no motion on the table [Tuesday night] for voting and there has not yet been a decision on flying the Pride Flag at the YCDSB,” the board said in a statement to CityNews.

Student Patrick Mikkelsen said he hopes the board will listen, and learn, from the growing voices among the student body in favour of raising the flag.

“We’ve collected over 1,000 signatures and the number keeps growing by the day,” Mikkelsen said.

“We wanted to share the student voice and the opinion of the students and we believe we are the majority when it comes to this issue. We believe that there’s a big push for representation and inclusion of 2SLGBTQ+ students and we wanted to come out and represent them.”

Files from Shauna Hunt were used in this report

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