The flag is up and the crosswalk is painted — it’s Pride Awareness Month at Ballenas Secondary School in Parksville.
This is the first Pride Awareness Month at the school, organized by the school’s Gender Sexuality Alliance group.
With June designated as Pride Month, the school hoisted the rainbow flag June 1, and it’s now flapping below the Canadian flag at the school. The GSA group fundraised to purchase the flag.
In mid May, the GSA group also contacted the city, asking that councillors consider having a rainbow crosswalk painted nearby.
To the group’s delight, council quickly replied, asking for more information, and unanimously passed a motion to have a crosswalk painted a few days later, said a Child and Youth Care Worker at the school. According to Parksville’s acting CAO, Vaughn Figueira, the croswalk cost about $1,500 to paint, with the money coming from city council’s contingecy funds.
The crosswalk, located at the Morison Avenue entrance to Pym Street, had members of the GSA overjoyed, the CYCW said.
It is the first rainbow crosswalk in Parksville, and it may not be the last, said Mayor Marc Lefebvre.
“When (the request) came before council under new business, we thought it was a great idea,” said Lefebvre. “And as a matter of fact, we are thinking out loud that it might be something that we might want to do elsewhere in the city too.”
“It’s a sign of the times and we want to be with the times,” he said. “We want to be shown to be the true kind of supportive city that we are.”
Ballenas administration has also been supportive of the GSA’s initiative.
“We celebrate the diversity of all our students,” said Ballenas principal Rudy Terpstra. “So for us, this is another way that we can teach our students about acceptance and diversity.”
The GSA has further plans for the month, with a rainbow shirt day coming up where each grade’s students, and administration, are encouraged to wear designated colours so that, together, they make a rainbow.
GSA members are also painting a large picture frame in rainbow colours which will stand for the month for students to take selfies in.
Asked if he was worried about any pushback in reaction to the GSA’s pride month, Terpstra said no, but added that he was happy that the city agreed to be a part of it, making the community part of the awareness effort.
The city posted a picture to its Facebook page of the crosswalk being painted, and it has gained dozens of comments, almost all of them positive, as well as 543 positive reactions and 339 shares as of mid-day June 9.
Some said they cheered and cried upon seeing the crosswalk, others saying they overflowed with pride for the inclusiveness of Parksville. One person noted that they “can’t even fathom this being here when I would have needed it as a queer youth walking into school.”
Terpstra said he considers the Pride Awareness Month to be a reflection of the diversity and acceptance of the student body.
The school has held other awareness days and T-shirt days in support of indigenous peoples and unpacking the stereotypes surrounding them, as well as anti-bullying “pink shirt” days and others.
Gender identity and orientation is also part of the new curriculum, and something that the B.C. government wants schools to educate students on, he said.