Police called as Pride flag debate erupts at York Region school board meeting

Chaos erupted at a York Region school board meeting in Aurora, Ont., on Tuesday over a debate about raising the rainbow flag for Pride month in June.

·6 min read
Police called as Pride flag debate erupts at York Region school board meeting

Chaos erupted at a York Region school board meeting in Aurora, Ont., on Tuesday over a debate about raising the rainbow flag for Pride month in June.

Police were called at a York Catholic District School Board (YCDSB) meeting at the Catholic Education Centre after the discussion about the Pride flag became heated, with security pushing people out and attendees arguing against the flag spilling into the hallway.

TCDSB teacher Paolo De Buono was set to speak in favour of raising the flag at the meeting. However, he claims he received an email from the board that his delegation will not be heard.

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In a video uploaded on Twitter by De Buono, he was swarmed by parents as they can be heard calling him a "devil incarnate," "radical teacher," and even a "pedophile."

De Buono uploaded his delegation speaking notes on Twitter and wrote that he was ashamed to be a York Catholic parent because York Catholic is the only Catholic board in the GTA "not flying the Pride flag."

"I am deeply concerned that York Catholic's obstinance in not flying the Pride flag is a red flag about how its 2SLGBTQI+ students are being treated in York Catholic schools and that 2SLGBTQI+ students do not feel safe within York Catholic schools," he wrote.

"Flying the Pride flag at York Catholic schools has everything to do with learning. Students cannot learn when they do not feel safe at school," he added.

According to City News Toronto reporter Michelle Mackey, many 2SLGBTQ+ students were left in "tears" during the meeting.

"Some 2SLGBTQ+ students who were still in the meeting were in tears," she wrote on Twitter. "A trustee made a speech about keeping kids safe and denouncing hate. When students in the room asked how exactly they were going to do that, there was no response and the meeting continued.

De Buono also tweeted that as the situation became worse with parents shouting, he could see many students sitting scared in the board room and crying.

โ€œI saw students crying, in fear, in the boardroom, as they heard York Catholic community members shouting angrily from the lobby. How can such a simple but important form of recognition, a Pride flag, cause so many in York Region to become so angry?โ€ De Buono wrote in a tweet.

As a response to the event, PFLAG Canada, a national non-profit organization, officially designated York Catholic School Board as "Unsafe for the LGBTQ2IA+ Community of York Region."

"Last night's meeting was deeply disturbing on a number of levels," wrote President of Pflag Canada York Region Tristan Coolman.

"This incident, along with the treatment of the students, parents and allies in attendance today has proven this Board lacks the decision quality and expertise to create a truly inclusive, equitable, and safe public space for these meetings," he added.

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De Buono thanked everyone for their strong support after the delegation.

"It is challenging for me personally, [because] what I saw triggered my memory of issues I raised in my May 2021 application to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, which still has not processed it," he wrote.