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Central Okanagan school stakeholders renew Pride rainbow sidewalk

Fresh coat of paint added to recognize Pride Month

The fallout from a controversial incident that occurred at an elementary school track meet earlier this month continues to resonate within the school district.

At the last Central Okanagan Board of Education meeting Wednesday for the 2022-23 school year, two trustees reflected on how a track meet altercation continues to impact students and staff, and affirms the significance for the school district recognition of Pride Month in June.

Trustee Valene Johnson said events and discussions around Pride Month have brought out how school district staff continue to feel uncertain about their safety at school district-wide events going forward.

The incident occurred June 8 at the Apple Bowl, when a grandfather stepped forward to misgender and verbally accost a student competing in a shot put event.

The verbal altercation quickly became heated and involved the student’s mom and teachers supervising the track meet. The shot put event had to be moved to another part of the Apple Bowl to remove any further threat of altercation while allowing its completion.

The school district subsequently carried out an investigation and has since banned both the grandfather and his wife from attending any further school district events.

The incident also elicited online reactions from Kelowna city councillor Loyal Wooldridge, B.C. Premier David Eby and Kelowna Mayor Tom Dyas among others.

Kelowna RCMP also made a public statement and initiated an investigation into the incident.

For trustee Wayne Broughton, he said another event occurred Wednesday that should be given greater public acknowledgement, one that provides a more accurate reflection of the school district’s policy to equity and access to all students.

That event was applying fresh paint to the rainbow sidewalk outside the Central Okanagan Public Schools administration office involving trustees, administration staff, education stakeholders, students, CUPE school operations staff, teachers, parent advisory council representatives and principals/vice-principals.

Broughton alluded to the school district’s commitment to inclusion of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community in public schools, and how rainbow sidewalks are a welcoming symbol of that commitment.

He said the need for such symbols remain necessary to contradict the continual vocal rhetoric registered online against the gay and transgender community.

“False accusations are being made all the time…People ask me why do we need Pride? Because the life experiences these people have are not the same as others,” he said.

“Our students and staff need to feel safe. As a school district, we need to continue to stand up and show everyone you are welcome here, and everyone is included.

“It is important for all of us to celebrate diversity.”

Barry Gerding

About the Author: Barry Gerding

Senior regional reporter for Black Press Media in the Okanagan. I have been a journalist in the B.C. community newspaper field for 37 years...
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