EDMONTON — Nearly one thousand people have signed a petition calling on the Red Deer Public School Division to reverse a decision not to host a district-wide Pride week in favour of a diversity week.
“You send them to school hoping that there’s these adult role models there advocating for them, as trustees should be doing, and I think it’s obvious that that’s not what’s happening considering their decision to vote against Pride week,” Jennifer Prevost, petition author, told CTV News Edmonton in an interview on Sunday.
Although her children aren’t yet part of the central Alberta public school system, Prevost called rallying support the least she could do to make the community more accepting.
She launched the petition on Friday after the public school board voted 2-4 against a proposal to host a division-wide Pride week.
Instead, the board gestured to its Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Policy, which outlines ways students can lead an in-school event, and passed a motion to host a weeklong diversity event.
Board chair Nicole Buchanan says the division has been misrepresented.
“During the meeting, all trustees spoke with passion and conviction and their full support of LGBTQ+ students, staff, families and the community,” she wrote in a statement.
“The Red Deer Public School Board is not saying ‘no’ to Pride week. There is a mechanism in place for a Pride week event in Board Policy 19, our Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Policy Section 9.”
The policy dictates a principal must “immediately grant permission” for a student-led group or event and designate a staff member to serve as a liaison and guide in organizing the activity.
But Prevost says the existing guidance places the onus on children.
“Especially when they’re going to school and already being singled out or mistreated. They’re supposed to overcome that on their own, and then go to the principal or whoever it is to ask for a week to celebrate who they are? That’s asking way too much.”
A Red Deer public school father believes a division-wide event would also educate the broader school community.
“I’m from central Alberta and came back to work. This idea of being a redneck should be a proud thing but now it’s being often used in a negative connotation,” family physician Adam Hrdlicka commented.
“This Pride week and this education around it is for kids like me growing up to know: you accept everybody.”
Buchanan added the division deferring planning to students gives them the creativity and freedom to carry out their own vision.
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