A proposal to implement an annual Pride Week celebration in the Red Deer Public School District has been shot down in favour of a “Diversity Week” aimed at celebrating broader diversity in the community.
On Wednesday night, school trustee Dianne Macaulay brought forward a motion to declare an annual Pride Week in the district, celebrating LGBTQ+ pride in the first week of June. The motion came following a similar move by the Edmonton Public School Board in 2018.
However, Macaulay’s Pride Week motion was defeated 2-4 and replaced with one instituting a Diversity Week in Red Deer public schools.
“After giving that motion much thought and consideration, I felt inspired to expand on the idea and declare instead, a Diversity Week,” trustee Bev Manning wrote in her counter-proposal, which passed 4-2.
“Celebrating our diverse nature, embracing our differences, holding one another up with encouragement and love, is a more inclusive way to proceed with this motion. I believe it brings ALL groups together, celebrates ALL of our uniquenesses, encourages ALL of us to become aware of diversity and will be an opportunity for ALL of us to learn and grow together.”
Board chair Nicole Buchanan, who voted against Pride Week, said that despite the motion’s failure, all trustees spoke out strongly in favour of LGBTQ+ rights during the meeting.
“Celebrating our diverse nature, embracing our differences, holding one another up with encouragement and love, is a more inclusive way to proceed with this motion.”
“During our meeting all trustees spoke with passion and conviction of their full support of our LGBTQ+ students, staff, families and the larger community,” she told HuffPost Canada. “Our schools reflect the diversity, and the community that we serve, we celebrate and are extremely proud of the increased diversity we see across Red Deer and area.”
She said that the district already has a well-regarded sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) policy that allows student-led proposals for LGBTQ+ pride events, and so trustees didn’t see a need for Macaulay’s proposal.
“Instead of it being a board motion and directive from our board, there is already a mechanism in place for them to have Pride Week,” she said.
The Diversity Week proposal does not outline any specific communities that will be celebrated, but aims to celebrate historical diversity initiatives taken in the Red Deer Public School District.
“There have been many other teachers, administrators and students who have actively involved themselves in projects and initiatives that celebrate diversity,” Manning’s proposal reads. “Too many to mention here, and they often go quietly unnoticed as they are woven into the fabric of the day to day activities that occur.”
A school district-wide Pride
Macaulay’s proposal for Pride Week was inspired by a similar unanimous move by the Edmonton Public School Board to declare the first week of June Pride Week in the district.
Ahead of this week’s vote, she said a board-wide policy would provide support to individual schools in creating and implementing Pride events.
“At Central Alberta Pride Week in 2019 … I was approached by many individuals, either members of the LGBTQ2S+ community or allies, wondering if Red Deer would follow suit with what Edmonton Pubic Schools was doing,” she told Red Deer News Now earlier this week.
“In Edmonton, each school is responsible for how they want to promote and educate because each one is its own little community. We will simply help them with resources.”
Her proposal called on the district to “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.
Words need to be supported by actions
The result has faced backlash on social media from LGBTQ+ advocates across the province, with many critics expressing disappointment in the board’s refusal to adopt the Pride Week motion.
Alberta NDP MLA Janis Irwin Tweeted out her disappointment with the result and called on the board to reconsider Macaulay’s proposal.
Kristopher Wells, the Canada Research Chair for the Public Understanding of Sexual & Gender Minority Youth at MacEwan University in Edmonton, called the vote a blow to equity and intersectionality.
“The school board’s sexual orientation and gender identity policy is to be commended & it strongly supports initiatives like Pride Week,” Wells wrote on Twitter.
“So the question is why did the majority of trustees undermine their own policy? Words need to be supported by actions or they are meaningless.”
A petition has been launched to get the board to reverse its decision.