A petition asking Red Deer Public Schools to support a district-wide Pride Week has collected close to 2,000 names.
Red Deer mom Jennifer Prevost, who started the petition — Support Pride Week in Red Deer Public Schools – Reverse Trustees Vote Against It — at Change.org, said she couldn’t stand by and do nothing about the school board’s heartbreaking decision.
“I expect better role models and advocates to be present for my children when they enter the public school system. What kind of an example are we setting for our children when they are learning that something like Pride Week is not being appropriately represented in their place of education,” said Prevost who wanted to support members of the local LGBTQ community.
Last week a motion put forward by school board trustee Dianne Macaulay to establish Pride Week was defeated 2-4. A motion for a Diversity Week later passed 4-2.
The school jurisdiction has said policy already allows schools to have Pride Week at the request of students.
Prevost said the onus should not be on children. It’s the duty and responsibility of trustees to advocate for students’ needs.
Shannon Humphrey, Central Alberta Pride Society spokesperson, said some LGBTQ youth are secure in who they are, but others do not have the confidence and are still trying to figure out their own identity. Pride Week is about creating a sense of belonging.
“It’s really just creating a sense of community — ‘I am accepted for how I am, it is okay to be exactly as I am.’ (Pride Week) also goes a long way in creating a lot of visibility… To remind people of the importance of why pride exists. It started as a protest. It started as a riot and has grown into a celebration. It is still a fight for many people in many countries,” Humphrey said.
Diversity Week is a great idea, but it’s not long enough, Humphrey added.
“There’s no shortage of people experiencing marginalization. Diversity Week includes a large scale and large range of people. That’s why we have Black History Month. That’s why we have Orange Shirt Day. That’s why we have these really specific celebrations of identity and culture.”
Prevost said the plan is to take the petition to the school board to encourage trustees to reverse their decision.
“There’s no reason why (trustees) can’t be presented with another opportunity. No one is looking to paint them as the villain. We’re all human. We all make mistakes.
“It would be great if we all could learn something from this. It would speak hugely to the community if would reverse their decision,” said Prevost, who encouraged supporters to write to Red Deer Public Schools trustees.
Dr. Adam Hrdlicka, a rural family doctor whose children attend Red Deer Public Schools, said he has met vulnerable LGBTQ youth through his practice who have talked to him about the challenges they faced.
“Some youth may have a very good support system. But there’s some kids that don’t have any support. A Pride Week from kindergarten right through to Grade 12 would be important for those kids to know they are supported and loved,” said Hrdlicka, whose family is part of the LGBTQ community.
He said the school board has missed the point on how important Pride Week can be for youth, as well as young children.
“I would just call on the board to reverse their decision and have more public consultation on this matter.”