As a school board, we remain strongly committed to creating working and learning environments where all students and staff can bring their full identities, feel welcome and valued, and work and learn in an environment that enables them to be successful. We know that our students are more likely to learn, engage and succeed in school when they know and feel that they matter and belong. This is particularly poignant in June when we recognize and celebrate the history and contributions of our 2SLGBTQI+ community.
We are proud to recognize and celebrate June as Pride Month, and to supply all schools with the Progress Pride Flag, with the expectation that these flags will be proudly flown outside all our buildings. This is a small gesture to demonstrate to our 2SLGBTQI+ students and staff that they can bring their true selves to learn and to work. Pride month is another way to demonstrate what our Multi-Year Strategic Plan and Director’s Action Plan’s commitment to equity and inclusivity look like in YRDSB.
It looks like a visible commitment to creating safe, inclusive spaces.
Every one of our schools and administrative buildings are expected to fly the new Pride flag outside their buildings. Flying the flag sends a strong message to our students, staff and families that our schools are safe, inclusive spaces and that their identities are valued, celebrated and affirmed. It is a reminder that hate, discrimination and harassment will not be tolerated and we will strive every day to ensure that our students know that they matter and that they belong.
We recently launched a new positive space sticker, “a visible symbol of respect and support for 2SLGBTQI+ communities.” When aligned with the appropriate actions and allyship, the presence of a sticker represents a commitment to the dismantling of the systems of oppression and increases trust amongst student communities. Congratulations to the Unicornellers GSA from Cornell Village P.S. who created the winning design.
It looks like a commitment to speaking out against hate and discrimination whenever and wherever we see it.
Any act of hatred will not be tolerated at our board. This includes acts that vandalize the pride flag in any way. These incidents cause tremendous hurt and harm, and can make our students and staff feel unsafe in school. This is not acceptable. As a school board, we will continue to name acts of discrimination and take all appropriate steps when these incidents occur, including notifying York Regional Police and the school community, and reporting and investigating incidents within the school. All of our students should feel safe and welcome bringing and expressing their identities in our learning environments.
It looks like continuing to learn and grow.
We continue to invest in professional learning and development for staff on anti-oppression. This included working with The 519 who delivered a series of learning opportunities for staff on topics that include: Gender and Sexuality Diversity, Race and Queerness, Deep Dive into Trans-Affirming Practices, and Sexuality and Gender. The 519 training is part of an effort to challenge homophobia, biphobia and transphobia and to foster environments that are inclusive of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.
We also know that language matters and can contribute to helping create safer spaces. Our Gender Identity and Expression Guidelines were written to help develop deeper understandings on how to use identity-affirming language and demonstrate allyship.
It looks like creating spaces for 2SLGBTQI+ students and allies.
We invite you to learn more about how our elementary and secondary Gender and Sexuality Alliances (GSAs) are providing a safe space for students to learn, express themselves and share their identities. Our GSAs are also doing important work within our schools to model what allyship looks like. In recent years, the number of elementary GSAs has greatly increased and we look forward to one day having GSAs in all of our schools.
We also want to acknowledge the important and valuable work the 2SLGBTQI+ Employee Resource Group is doing to advocate and create a safe and supportive space for staff members and to advocate on behalf of the 2SLGBTQI+ staff community.
It looks like celebrating the identities of our 2SLGBTQI+ students, staff and families.
As a school board, we will be proudly marching in the York Region Pride Festival this coming weekend; the first in-person York Pride Parade held in two years. We also need to continue to look for opportunities for our students and staff to see their identities affirmed, reflected and celebrated year round, and know many of our schools are actively engaging in this work. We need to continue to think intentionally about the images and language we use, the texts that we share in the classroom, and how we are showing up for our students.
We wish everyone in the 2SLGBTQI+ community a very happy Pride celebration.
Allan Tam, Chair
Louise Sirisko, Director of Education