York Catholic District School Board is facing criticism after a group of anti-LGBTQ+ parents protested the use of "safe space" stickers in schools.
The board has since removed the online video recording of the Feb. 28 board meeting, in which York Regional Police were called to remove hecklers.
The parents told trustees that the LGBTQ-friendly safe space stickers that some teachers are using in their classrooms and the board's inclusivity efforts go against the Catholic faith.
PFlag Canada York Region president Tristan Coolman said the "hate speech" should never have been allowed and the board needs to do better in the future.
“Nobody should have to be in an environment like that, to have to hear that type of hate speech,” Coolman said. “We’re not going to change their opinions. That’s what they think, that’s what they feel.”
In a statement released after the meeting, director of education Domenic Scuglia acknowledged that the delegations violated the board’s code of conduct, which requires delegations to treat all community members respectfully.
He said the stickers were recently distributed by the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association, and the board of trustees had not approved their use, as it was an operational matter.
But the board is not opposed to the stickers.
“The leadership of the YCDSB feels that the message of ‘Safe Spaces’ is consistent with our core Catholic values,” Scuglia said. “The YCDSB has encouraged teachers to display or not display these stickers based on their personal beliefs.”
He further said that as a Catholic-leaning community, they believe that Jesus taught that everyone is worthy of love, dignity and respect.
“We are committed to ensuring that we provide a place where those who feel excluded, bullied, or struggling with their sense of belonging can gather in support of one another with Jesus Christ as our role model,” Scuglia said.
As for the Pflag critique, the board said the delegations at the board meeting were approved “based on the materials that were submitted in advance, but delegates added to their prepared comments while presenting.”
Top religious officials, including Pope Francis, denounced the criminalization of homosexuality earlier this month.
But with some U.S. lawmakers recently targeting trans persons and drag shows, Coolman said society is seeing some regression for LGBTQ+.
“When you empower hate speech, the movement is incredibly invigorated. All they need is permission,” Coolman said. “They want to eradicate us. We as a community, and as allies, need to fight back just as hard if not harder.”
Coolman said the board needs to apologize for the “lack of action and the lack of leadership they displayed," and that Scuglia’s statement acknowledges the hurt caused by the delegations, but the board has offered no apology.
As for the presenters, Coolman said, “We need to ensure these individuals know that their speech, and their hate actions, will not go unchallenged.”