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'Deeply disturbing': Police called after Toronto-area school board meeting attendees loudly oppose raising Pride flag

A York Catholic District School Board (YCDSB) meeting got heated after some attendees loudly expressed their opposition to raising the Pride Progress flag at the board’s central office during Pride Month in June.

During the meeting on Tuesday night, several people began shouting in the packed board room. Those individuals were asked to leave, but remained in the building’s atrium and didn’t vacate until police arrived, according to the board.

“It was an unfortunate incident that happened last night. We were hoping to have an opportunity to hear from the public in terms of how the York Catholic District School Board ought to recognize our support for LGBTQ+ students during the month of June,” spokesperson Mark Brosens said during an interview with CP24 Wednesday afternoon.

“It was unfortunate that we got to a situation where the police had to come to the board office, however that was necessary to ensure the safety of everyone who was involved.”

Brosens went on to say that they are “deeply sorry” if any students felt unsafe.

“We're going to continue to look for ways to improve our processes and make things safer for those students in our board meetings,” he said, adding YCDSB brought in greater security presence than usual for the regularly schedued meeting.

Brosens said that he didn’t want to “point fingers” at who might be responsible for what occurred. He said the board is having ongoing conversations with a range of stakeholders about how this symbol “fits with our Catholic values as a school board,” adding they wish that there could have been a “better democratic conversation” on this issue.

That doesn’t provide any consolation to parent Paolo De Buono, one of last night's deputants, who says that he was accosted by a loud, angry mob.

In a follow-up tweet posted early Wednesday morning, the Toronto Catholic teacher and long-time LGTBQ rights advocate said he saw students “crying, in fear” 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?,” he wrote.

It should be noted that De Buono was almost not afforded the opportunity to speak during last night’s meeting after the board said that his remarks were “not in keeping with our values as a Catholic school board.” The YCDSB rescinded its decision just hours before the meeting.

“That delegation was approved pending a review of the speaking notes,” Brosens told Wednesday afternoon.

Tuesday evening’s meeting was temporarily halted due to the incident, but resumed a short time later.

There is currently no decision made on the Pride flag matter, but something will need to be decided by June, Brosens said.

On Wednesday morning, Pflag Canada York Region sent a letter to YCDSB’s Board of Trustees, Chair Frank Alexander, and Director of Education Domenic Scuglia denouncing what happened during the April 25 board meeting and calling for steps to be taken to “better protect queer delegations in the future.”

Tristan Coolman, the organization’s president, said that he was attendance to lend his support to students making deputations.

Calling what occurred “deeply disturbing on a number of levels,” he said those named should be “deeply ashamed of what (they) allowed to happen.”

Coolman, who also spoke with CP24 this afternoon, said that police should have been present from the beginning of the meeting and security should have removed the disruptors immediately from the building.

And while his initial experience at the meeting was positive, Coolman said that all changed when the board permitted to make “discriminatory and bigoted commentary towards the queer community” that was followed by a “poorly managed takeover … by bullies whose goal was to intimidate a pair of high school students.”

“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 charged, noting only one trustee spoke up to condemn the behavior.

“Hate was provided more space and time through your lack of action and protocols despite lessons which should have been learned from the prior two months,” said Coleman.

He’s also refuting YCDSB’s “disclaimer” that was made at the beginning of delegations stated that they “reflect only the opinions of the delegates.”

“Selecting who speaks and does not solely based on arbitrary criteria does lend itself to your approval and sign off,” he said.

“Despite your own statement, it is a reflection of what you allow to be shared in your space and today you allowed bigoted statements to have an official platform yet again.”

Brosens told CP24 that they would be reaching out to Coolman “to have a conversation.” Top Stories

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