Home / Around Canada / ‘Terrible, hateful’: Students speak out after Pride flag torn down at London, Ont., high school

‘Terrible, hateful’: Students speak out after Pride flag torn down at London, Ont., high school

A Pride flag is back flying in front of Sir Frederick Banting Secondary School in London, Ont., after a video emerged on social media of students tearing down the flag and throwing it in the garbage. 

‘There was no need to show that disrespect,’ says Sir Frederick Banting high school student.

video footage

A Pride flag is back flying in front of Sir Frederick Banting Secondary School in London, Ont., after a video Tuesday on social media showed students tearing it down and throwing it in the garbage.

In the video, a student whose face is covered with black clothing is seen tugging on the flag, ripping it down and throwing it to the ground while other students cheer. A voice is heard yelling, “Take it off! Take it off!”

Another student is seen picking up the flag off the ground and carrying it toward a garbage can while a voice yells, “Put it in the garbage! Put it in the garbage!” Other images obtained by CBC News from social media show a Pride flag in a garbage can.

Thames Valley District School Board officials condemned the actions and said the flag was immediately replaced.

The incident happened the same day Londoners were being encouraged to practise tolerance as they remembered members of the Afzaal family who were killed two years ago in a truck attack police say was motivated by anti-Muslim hate.

canada flag and rainbow flag flies on a flag poll

“I want to be very, very clear that acts of hate and acts of discrimination have no place in the Thames Valley District School Board, and that we will always affirm identities and we will not tolerate this type of behaviour,” said director of education Mark Fisher.

The video was handed over to the school principal and superintendent, who are investigating to determine who was involved, Fisher said. London police also confirmed they are investigating.

“When that investigation reaches its conclusion, appropriate consequences and sanctions will be levied,” Fisher said.

‘This shouldn’t have happened’

Students at the northwest London high school are calling the incident an act of hate.

At the time, flags were lowered out of respect for the Afzaals, said Grade 12 student Ola Elegbede.

London high school students condemn Pride flag vandalism

Students at Sir Frederick Banting Secondary School say the vandalism of a Pride flag at the school was immature and hateful.

“Yesterday was supposed to be peaceful. Yesterday was supposed to be a sad day, a day of remembrance for the family.”

Elegbede said the incident was immature and hateful.

“This crime is not just vandalism … it was a crime toward people of a specific sexual orientation.”

teen girl wears white sweater outside

Naomi McColl, a Grade 11 student, expressed disappointment that her school has been associated with disrespectful behaviour toward the LGBTQ community.

“As a part of this community, I really wish people were a bit more open minded, especially in this generation,” she said.

McColl said she’s a member of the LGBTQ community and people at Banting have been kind and open to her, but it’s “pretty sad” to find out some have harboured feelings of hate.

“You should just treat everyone with human respect and decency,” she said. “There was no need to show that disrespect openly.”

two teen boys stand outside a school

Grade 12 student Mohamad Dadako is also calling for people to show respect. He said this is the first time he’s seen an act of hate toward the LGBTQ community at the school.

“For years I’ve seen the love, the respect toward everyone, and this shouldn’t have happened,” he said. “You must respect everyone even if you have different opinions, different religions, beliefs.

“It’s supposed to be a place to learn to respect others, not to hate others.”

Students and staff are shocked, some angered, some disappointed … That being said, I honestly believe that the actions of a few should not tarnish the diligent work that our school community does every day to promote equity, diversity and safety for students and teachers. – Daniel René Boudreau, teacher at Sir Frederick Banting Secondary School

Daniel René Boudreau, a teacher as well as a Pride/Fierté adviser at Sir Frederick Banting, expressed deep sadness over the incident.

“Having to see our admin secretary removing it from the thrash was heartbreaking for me personally. Students and staff are shocked, some angered, some disappointed that this has occurred,” said Boudreau. “That being said, I honestly believe that the actions of a few should not tarnish the diligent work that our school community does every day to promote equity, diversity and safety for students and teachers.”

Boudreau said students and staff are resilient, strong and empathetic, and will continue to build strong relationships despite such a random act of vandalism and hate.

Create safe space for all students

The incident makes the role of public education more important than it’s ever been — to create safe spaces for all students, and enforce and protect the Ontario Human Rights Code, said Fisher.

“Really, that’s what the Pride flag is about,” he said.

“It’s about a symbol of inclusion and a symbol of safety, and any destruction to that will be taken very seriously. We replaced that flag immediately like we would in any situation where there is vandalism to a symbol of inclusion.”

sign for high school 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Michelle Both is a reporter for CBC London. She holds a master’s degree in journalism and communication from Western University. You can reach her at michelle.both@cbc.ca or on Twitter at @michellelboth.

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Credit belongs to : www.cbc.ca

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