Catholic school inclusivity debate turns to rainbows
People take part in the Pride Parade in Toronto on Sunday, July 4, 2010. (Adrien Veczan/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
A debate over inclusivity in Ontario's Catholic school system was re-ignited this week after a gay-friendly student group was told not to use the politically-charged rainbow to promote a recent event.
The organizer of the unofficial anti-homophobia club at Mississauga's St. Joseph's Catholic Secondary School was discouraged from using rainbow banners to promote the school's Social Justice Week.
Leanne Iskander, 16, said she was told the rainbow couldn't be used because it was associated with gay pride, a taboo inside Catholic schools.
"There's so many other things that a rainbow could be. It's ridiculous," she told Xtra!, Toronto's Gay and Lesbian newspaper.
The Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board said in a statement that the rainbow banners had not been banned by the school. Instead, the school had decided to use material designed by students that promoted its Social Justice Week.
One of those items, a bookmark, featured coloured bars that illustrated a rainbow.
The statement from the board said the banners and posters in question were not allowed to be posted because they had not been approved by the school board ahead of the event.
"This does not constitute a ban, rather an adherence to a process of which students were well aware," the statement read.
In absence of the rainbow flags, the club at St. Joseph's baked rainbow cupcakes.
This latest debate over gay friendliness comes after Ontario's government directed Catholic schools to help fight homophobia inside the system, leading the province's Catholic educators to balance equality with the Vatican's stance against homosexuality.
The directive from Queen's Park came earlier this year, after St. Joseph's school blocked the formation of Iskander's gay-straight club.
Iskander had asked her principal if she could start a gay-straight alliance, but was reportedly turned down and told to use existing support groups.
At the time a spokesman for the board supported the principal's decision, saying all school clubs must be considered under the Catholic lens.
Halton's Catholic District School Board had also previously opposed gay-friendly clubs. Earlier this year, board trustees officially agreed to neither approve nor ban gay-straight student groups.
The board requested such clubs discuss all forms of discrimination and refrain from using the words gay, lesbian or homosexual.