Some London parents with ties to faith-based groups are questioning whether to send their children to school today to mark the start of Pride month, with one Christian group calling for a national walk-out.
Both the Catholic and the public school boards have said they support Pride and will do whatever it takes to make students who identify as LGBTQ feel included and celebrated.
“Schools may choose to celebrate Pride Month in different ways based on the diverse needs of their school community,” wrote Mark Adkinson, spokesperson with the London District Catholic School Board (LDCSB).
In a statement to CBC News, the Thames Valley District School Board said Pride month will be celebrated with schools and administrative buildings flying the Pride Flag.
“Thames Valley considers the Pride Flag to be a symbol of equity and inclusion,” the statement says. “Values that are the foundation of publicly funded education in Ontario and rooted in the Ontario Human Rights Code. It is a representation of our solidarity and support for our 2SLGBTQIA+ communities in the face of continued discrimination.”
The board’s statement also says flying of the Pride Flag is in no way an attempt to change any individual’s religious or creed-based beliefs or values.
However some parents involved in faith groups say they plan to keep their kids at home today.
Parents use their discretion
In an emailed statement sent to parents Wednesday, the London Council of Imams commented on school activities in June, which is Pride Month.
The statement points to the TVDSB’s policy of religious accommodation that allows parents to exempt their children from activities contrary to religious beliefs.
“When it comes to activities related to ‘Pride Month’ in the month of June, parents play an integral role in the education of their children and are critical to empowering them to remain steadfast in their faith and beliefs,” the statement said.
The council of Imams, however, says it not in a position to direct parents about what to do with their children, advising them to use their own discretion.
Meanwhile, Muslim parents were engaged in an online discussion in the London Ontario Muslim Facebook group on Wednesday. There were scores of posts responding to a question about whether or not parents were sending their kids to class on Thursday.
Opinions were deeply divided with some parents expressing with certainty their religious beliefs meant their kids would not participate in rainbow flag raising events. Others said respectful dialogue was needed.
Outside of White Oaks Public School on Wednesday, three Muslim parents told CBC News they had heard some parents would be keeping their children at home Thursday. One woman confirmed she’s keeping her kids home for religious regions. None of the parents who spoke to CBC News were willing to give their name.
Meanwhile, Canada Life Coalition (CLC), a national pro-life organization opposing what they see as threats to “Life, Family & Faith” — announced plans on their website to declare a “Pride flag walk-out day.”
The website says the CLC says the walkout is a move to demonstration opposition to “school boards indoctrinating children with LGBT propaganda.”
While the walkout has no direct ties to London, the website mentions references a London elementary school where students were reportedly absent earlier this month. CBC News was not able to verify the absences, and was told by the school board at the time it had no comment.
The London Council of Imams said it is planning consultations with the Thames Valley District School Board, noting the public board has always been willing to discuss issues.
In the email s to parents, it said the consultations will be with “Muslim educators within the TVDSB to provide perspectives on materials that are not deemed culturally responsive to Muslim students while discussing what concrete steps can be taken to address this in a teaching environment.”
The TVDSB has held community engagement sessions with various equity groups in recent years. In May, CBC News asked if Pride was raised during conversations with the Muslim community held in October 2022 and a spokesperson said it was not discussed.
“We’ve received feedback from many different communities about our equity initiatives and we appreciate parent/caregivers sharing their voice. Our commitment to affirming student identities and promoting equity, diversity and inclusion in Thames Valley schools remains unchanged,” said the TVDSB spokesperson.