Two years ago Red Deer Public Schools trustee Dianne Macaulay celebrated Pride Week in the community with her child Jasper. (Photo contributed)

Two years ago Red Deer Public Schools trustee Dianne Macaulay celebrated Pride Week in the community with her child Jasper. (Photo contributed)

Defeat of Pride Week motion at Red Deer Public Schools catches heat

Red Deer Public Schools says district policy already allows Pride Week

A decision by Red Deer Public Schools board of trustees to reject a district Pride Week in favour of a Diversity Week in June has some questioning the district’s commitment to its LGBTQ students and staff.

This week a motion by one of the trustees to establish Pride Week was defeated 2-4. A motion for a Diversity Week later passed 4-2.

Kristopher Wells, associate professor at MacEwan University, who specializes in sexual and gender minority youth and education, said Red Deer Public’s decision was a bit surprising.

“They’ve been known to be a progressive school board on LGBTQ issues. They were one of the early school boards to adopt a stand alone Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Policy,” said Wells, noting a backlash on social media against the board’s decision.

“This is really a step backwards and calls into question the commitment of the board to that policy.”

Trustees Dianne Macaulay and Cathy Peacocke voted in favour of Pride Week.

Board chair Nicole Buchanan and trustees Bev Manning, Bill Stuebing and Laurette Woodward voted against Pride Week, and in favour of Diversity Week.

Buchanan said the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Policy already allows schools to have a Pride Week.

“The board and the division are extremely proud of our Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Policy which was highlighted as one of the best policies of school jurisdictions in the province by LGBTQ+ champions,” Buchanan said.

She said at the meeting all trustees spoke with passion and conviction of their full support for all LGBTQ students, staff, families and the larger community.

While there have been no Pride Weeks yet at any of the schools, Buchanan said she would like to see them be held.

“I would like to see that happen from the school level. I want people to have the opportunity to do what they want without being forced to do it,” Buchanan said.

Red Deer Public Schools said diversity celebrations will encourage and include specific actions that recognize the challenges and struggles facing by LGBTQ individuals and the community.

But Wells, who is also Canada Research Chair (Tier II) for the Public Understanding of Sexual and Gender Minority Youth, said trying to lump everything into a catch-all Diversity Week does a disservice to everyone.

“It’s sort of a bland, generic approach that we might have seen 10 or 15 years ago. Right now we understand the specificity and importance of celebrating the unique identity and cultures of the students who attend our schools. That’s exactly why Pride Week exists.”

In Alberta, Edmonton Public Schools and St. Alberta Public Schools have Pride Weeks.

“The reality is that LGBTQ young people are still identifying that school is often not a safe or welcoming environment for them. They’re still experiencing bullying and discrimination. Pride week is not only a time to celebrate, but a time to educate.”

He said in some cases 10 to 20 per cent of school populations may identify as LGBTQ.

“In this country unfortunately, LGBTQ is still one of the three most targeted groups for hate crimes. Of all the hate crimes committed, they’re the most violent in nature. So clearly we have an issue here that needs to be addressed.”

“The bottom line is schools need to be safe, welcoming and inclusive for everyone. Unfortunately, that’s not the reality. That’s exactly why we’re having events like Pride Week,” said Wells, who along with others, want Red Deer Public to reconsider its decision.

Related:

Sexual, gender minorities much likelier to be crime victims

Deadline for LGBTQ school policy approaches

Macaulay, who put forward the Pride Week motion, said online comments about the motion show a huge lack of understanding about what Pride Week is about, and what members of the LGBTQ community face on a daily basis.

“There’s still a lot of negativity. There’s still a lot of misunderstanding on exactly what it’s like to be gay, or trans, or gender neutral, or anything like that. It’s something we still need to educate our public on and treat everybody with kindness,” Macaulay said.

But resubmitting the motion will likely result in the same outcome, she said.

“If another organization wanted to bring something forward it may have more merit. But it was pretty clear at the board meeting how people wanted this week to be celebrated. They wanted to celebrate a Diversity Week.”

A petition — Support Pride Week in Red Deer Public Schools – Reverse Trustees Vote Against It — has been set up at Change.org with a goal of 500 signatures. As of Friday evening, 190 people had signed the online petition.



szielinski@reddeeradvocate.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

LGBTQPride WeekRed Deer public schools

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Health Minister Tyler Shandro announced updated health measures Monday which are now in place for retail, hotels and community halls, performance groups, and youth sports as part of Step 2 of Alberta’s reopening plan. (File photo by Government of Alberta)
COVID restrictions for retail, sports and performers further eased

Occupancy in stores and malls boosted to 25 per cent from 15 per cent

The City of Red Deer sits at 249 active cases of the virus, after hitting a peak of 565 active cases on Feb. 22. (Black Press file image)
Active COVID cases in Red Deer continue to decline

249 cases in Red Deer, down from 565 peak on Feb. 22

(File photo)
Five Olds College students semi-finalists in marketing pitch competition

Winner of Second Annual UFA Student Pitch Competition to be announced April 13

Nordegg residents, including retired fisheries biologist Vance Buchwald, are concerned this kind of coal mining could start up in the wilderness area. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Mead Gruver, File).
Biologist urges Clearwater County to take a stand against Nordegg coal mining

Vance Buchwald said there’s no future in coal, the county should back eco-tourism

Quentin Lee Strawberry Photo from RCMP
Updated: Bleeding man came to door frantically calling for 911 help, neighbour testifies in murder trial

Quentin Strawberry on trial for second-degree murder accused of killing Joseph Gallant in 2019

Ben King scores for the Red Deer Rebels during the third period of a Western Hockey League game against the Calgary Hitmen at the Westerner Park Centrium Saturday. (Photo by Rob Wallator/Red Deer Rebels)
Rebels complete comeback to pick up first win of season

Rebels 3 Hitmen 2 (OT) The Red Deer Rebels were able to… Continue reading

Edmonton Oilers' Connor McDavid (97) checks Ottawa Senators' Chris Tierney (71) during third-period NHL action in Edmonton on Monday, March 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Oilers open three-game homestand against Senators with 3-2 victory

Oilers open three-game homestand against Senators with 3-2 victory

Dave Mercer poses in this undated handout photo. Fishing is Dave Mercer's passion. When he's not taping episodes for his fishing show, 'Dave Mercer's Facts of Fishing,' doing his podcast and weekly fishing tips, he can usually be found on the water. Mercer is also in his 11th year as an MC for the Bassmasters Classic and Elite Series and after watching Canadians Chris Johnston, of Peterborough, Ont., and Jeff Gustafson, of Kenora, Ont., capture tournament this in less than a year, Mercer is confident the third Canadian on the tour, Johnston's older brother, Cory, will win a circuit event either this year or next. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Dave Mercer Outdoors Inc.
Bassmasters Elite Series MC Dave Mercer enjoying Canadians’ success on circuit

Bassmasters Elite Series MC Dave Mercer enjoying Canadians’ success on circuit

Meghan McPeak, left, and Randy Urban do play-by-play for the Raptors 905 team in Mississauga, Ont., on Wednesday, January 25, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Toronto Raptors using all-female broadcast crew for televised game later this month

Toronto Raptors using all-female broadcast crew for televised game later this month

Toronto Six get another crack at Isobel Cup women’s hockey championship

Toronto Six get another crack at Isobel Cup women’s hockey championship

Canada's Mikael Kingsbury celebrates after finishing first in the final of the World Cup men's dual moguls skiing competition, Friday, Feb. 5, 2021, in Deer Valley, Utah. Canadian moguls star Kingsbury captured a gold medal for the fifth time at the world championships today.THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Rick Bowmer
Mikael Kingsbury wins world men’s moguls championship

Mikael Kingsbury wins world men’s moguls championship

A Canadian Premier League soccer ball is shown on a podium in this undated handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Canadian Premier League/Chant Photography *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Canadian Premier League offers first look at its bottom line

Canadian Premier League offers first look at its bottom line

Team Manitoba skip Jason Gunnlaugson directs his team as he plays Team Wild Card One at the Brier in Calgary, Alta., Monday, March 8, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Alberta’s Bottcher hands Wild Card Three’s Middaugh his first loss at the Brier

Alberta’s Bottcher hands Wild Card Three’s Middaugh his first loss at the Brier

Rheal Cormier, left, receives his jacket from Ferguson Jenkins during his induction to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in St. Marys, Ont., on June 23, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Dave Chidley
Former Canadian major-leaguer Rheal Cormier dies after battle with cancer

Former Canadian major-leaguer Rheal Cormier dies after battle with cancer

Most Read