Trustees speak out after Pride decorations removed from Edmonton Catholic high school

Students hose a chalk rainbow off the sidewalk outside Blessed Oscar Romero High School on June 6, 2017.
Students hose a chalk rainbow off the sidewalk outside Blessed Oscar Romero High School on June 6, 2017. Chris Cromwell/Twitter

Students at Blessed Oscar Romero High School said they are hurt and frustrated after they were told to remove decorations they had put up to celebrate Edmonton’s Pride week.

The decorations included a chalk rainbow outside the front doors and flags in the school.

According to Tweets from Oscar Romero student Chris Crowell, the decorations were to be taken down because they were a political statement that offended some people.

Edmonton Catholic School Board spokesperson Lori Nagy told CBC news, the decorations weren’t “authorized” by the administration.

READ MORE: Edmonton man hopes rainbow-coloured bench creates safe space for LGBTQ people

But ECSB trustee Patricia Grell contested that position to 630 CHED’s Ryan Jespersen.

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“Actually, the board didn’t have anything to do with what actions this principal took or what statements were made by our administration.

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“And I think it shows you that divide, that disconnect between the board and the administration right there.

“I’m just getting a little bit tired when I hear these statements that: ‘The board said.’ No, the board didn’t say. The board didn’t even know. So how could we say something?” Grell said.

LISTEN: Ryan Jespersen speaks with ECSB trustees about Pride decorations

READ MORE: Ask The Educator: Mental health supports in Edmonton Catholic Schools

“This issue was that the custodians had an issue with chalk being used to make a rainbow flag at the front of the school,” trustee Debbie Engel said Wednesday afternoon.

“They said whether it would have been the volleyball club drawing volleyballs, or the chess club drawing chess pieces, the reaction would have been the same because it was dragging chalk into the school.”

After backlash, the school said that Pride flags could remain.

The incident brought to light once again the apparent disconnect in the ECSD board. The board has been plagued by discord and dysfunction for years, often boiling over when it came to creating a province-mandated policy around LGBTQ students.

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WATCH: Fiery debate at Edmonton Catholic School Board meeting

In this case, trustee Marilyn Bergstra said the damage had been done early on.

“The metaphor in and of itself behind the act was profoundly sad.”

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LISTENER REACTION: Edmonton school pulls down Pride decorations

“I think that we have to be very vigilant of how students internalize these kinds of actions, and I don’t think this will be forgotten by any LGBTQ student as they move forward in life,” Bergstra said.

READ MORE: Edmonton school trustees reprimanded, 1 removed as vice-chair for ‘speaking against Catholic values’

“They are dismissing the issue as the result of unchecked emotions and miscommunication, and yet they refuse to communicate with us,” Crowell tweeted about the board’s disconnect.

Mayor Don Iveson was quick to reach out to student president-elect Francis Nievera, inviting the teen to join him in this weekend’s Pride parade.

Education Minister David Eggen responded to the controversy on Twitter Wednesday afternoon as well. He stated that he directed his staff to contact the principal at Oscar Romero after learning about the “error in judgement.”

He stated that a flag would be put up at the school Thursday.

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Eggen added the students will also be invited to the Pride flag-raising at the Alberta legislature.