A Lacombe resident studying education at Red Deer College says the rejection of a Pride Week motion at Red Deer Public Schools is “frightening and disheartening.”
On Feb. 10, the board at Red Deer Public School Division voted against a proposed Pride Week for the school division.
Trustee Dianne Macaulay brought the motion to the board and was met with support from only one other trustee, Cathy Peacocke.
William Langille, a Lacombe resident and president of the Education Undergraduate Society at Red Deer College, says it looks like the board of trustees did not want to be associated with the name or idea of Pride Week. This, he adds, goes against the school division’s 2015 Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity policy which aims to “foster a sense of belonging” in their schools
“This is sending the message that the trustees care more about the status quo than creating the inclusive atmosphere they say they want,” Langille said.
Hearing the vote did not go in favour of Pride Week brought Langille back to many negative experience he has had throughout his schooling involving LGBTQ+ ideas.
He remembers a friend of his came out as openly gay in middle school and was beaten up and shoved against the lockers in the locker room.
While in high school, Langille and many others participated in a walk out against changes to Gay-Straight Alliances Premiere Jason Kenney had proposed. He and the other students having homophobic slurs shouted at them from others in the school.
“By accepting the proposal and having a dedicated Pride Week in school, it would be a step in the right direction. It would help combat the instances of homophobia many have faced in school.”
Trustee Macauley had proposed the school division “Recognize Pride week during the first week of June while the students are in school as a district… The District will support schools with resources, ideas and education for the schools that choose to participate in Pride week.”
In the report to the board, Macauley says having a division-wide Pride Week would show support for the students and staff of Red Deer Public.
According to Langille, Pride Week isn’t just about support, it is also about celebration.
“Celebration, and not just inclusivity, is a great way to combat ideas like homophobia, because they are embraced and celebrated and shown as normal. In some ways inclusivity just isn’t enough, you have to celebrate it as well,” he said.
On Feb. 11, Red Deer was trending on the social media platform Twitter because of the choice made by the trustees.
“Diversity Week just seems like a strange alternative that isn’t doing the same thing,” Langille said.
Langille says this vote would have been the perfect opportunity for them to show the world how forward thinking and accepting they are.
Instead of a Pride Week, trustees voted in favour of creating a Diversity Week.
“Diversity is great, but there are 52 weeks in a year, a Diversity Week could easily be done some other time.
“Inclusivity and respect are both shown in Pride Week and Diversity Week, but in different ways. In Pride Week you are celebrating not just acknowledging,” Langille said.
As a second year education student, and President of the Education Undergraduate Society at the College, Langille says he is afraid what the world of education will be like when he and his colleagues step out into the world.
Education students are hoping to enter a forward thinking world that is accepting and positive, he said.
“This is building anxiety for the future teachers in this province. This regressive and harmful thinking,” Langille said.
According to the Centre for Suicide Prevention in Calgary, lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth are five times more likely to consider suicide and seven times more likely to attempt suicide.
The Canadian Institute of Health Research says LGTBQ+ students are three times more likely to “experience discrimination” than their heterosexual peers.
“While a Pride Week will certainly not rid schools of homophobia, it will be a significant step in the right direction; it will provide youth an opportunity to celebrate that for which they are often harmed,” Langille said.