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WELLINGTON COUNTY — School board officials say “targeted hate crimes,” like the recent vandalism of pride flags at local schools, can negatively affect learning and make some students feel unwelcome and in danger.

“What we do know is that belonging to a school, a school as a community, is extremely important and the security that comes with that belonging is extremely important,” said Jessica Rowden, chief equity officer at the within the Upper Grand District School Board (UGDSB).

“And so these types of acts of hate and vandalism test a student’s ability to feel like they belong, feel valued, and feel safe in their school community.”

Between June 11 and 12, the pride flags of three UGDSB schools – in Drayton, Moorefield and Harriston – were either removed from the flag poles or removed and destroyed.

“UGDSB views these acts as targeted hate crimes,” council spokeswoman Heather Loney said in an email.

“We reported the incidents to the local police.”

UGDSB Education Superintendent Brent McDonald said school staff saw the vandalized flags early in the morning and were able to raise the flag or a replacement flag before students arrived.

“[We] were very pleased that staff were able to ensure the visual impact of this was not noticeable as students entered the school,” McDonald said.

“But the impact that we’ve seen in all of the communities, as well as in our school communities, for the students…has also been an incredible outpouring of support within the wider community, but also within the school communities.”

McDonald’s also reiterated the board’s commitment to naming and addressing such situations when they arise.

“In this case, we quickly labeled it an act of hate against homophobia and transphobia and biphobia against our 2SLGBTQIA+ communities,” he said.

He added that an important part of the council’s response was to let the community know what happened.

Another part, McDonald explained, is bringing together board staff, students and the local community to support those most affected.

Rowden said the incidents are a powerful reminder to students and board officials that there is still work to be done.

“Furthermore, it reminds us of the incredible work that is already underway and the support we have from systems and staffing systems and broader communities, fellow students,” she explained.

“These types of incidents remind us of how much more we have to do to raise awareness and reduce ignorance and hatred, but also how grateful we are for all the great things that are happening.”

McDonald said the board is considering possible preventative measures to ensure this doesn’t happen again or at least to minimize the risk.

This includes working with the Ontario Provincial Police, but also implementing enhanced security measures in schools and video surveillance of symbols that schools have for Pride Month celebrations.

“It’s a great time to amplify and kind of augment the work and highlight what’s going on, but it’s work that happens and continues throughout the school year,” said Mcdonalds.

Rowden added: “We want to name vandalism and hate, and we also want to say there’s plenty of space and ability to focus on joy and celebration.”

Complies with Canadian flag etiquette

The UGDSB has a policy and procedures which define the floating parameters of the flags.

“There is a common misconception that it is illegal for schools to fly additional flags on the same flagpole as the Canadian flag,” a UGDSB press release read.

“However, the policy and procedure of the UGDSB is in accordance with the National flag of Canada label, which states: “The rules enforced by the federal government are in no way binding on individuals or organizations; they can serve as guidelines for all people who wish to fly the National Flag of Canada and other flags in Canada.

McDonald pointed out, “Having a flag…on the same flagpole as a Canadian flag is entirely permissible and permissible, as long as it flies under the Canadian flag, which we have in all our circumstances where there is a flagpole. singular on a place of the school. »

For more information on the Pride Flag and 2SLGBTQIA+ inclusion in the UGDSB, visit the board’s website website.