Gay Student Asked to Remove Rainbow Flag at Canadian Catholic School

dylan.jpg

Dylan Chevalier

A student in a Canadian Catholic school may file a human rights complaint after being asked to remove a rainbow flag during a school ceremony.

Dylan Chevalier, who is gay and attends St. Joseph Catholic High School in Edmonton, Alberta, typically wears a pride flag as a cape during school time. As he tried to wear the flag while processing into the opening ceremony of a basketball tournament, a teacher asked him to remove it.

Chevalier said this request left him “in shock” and “quite angry” because he believes the cape “shows people you are in fact accepted at this high school” regardless of one’s gender identity.

Classmates rallied with Chevalier outside the school last week. One student, Quinn Wade, said they “thought we had come further than” violating a person’s freedom of expression.

But St. Joseph H.S. Principal Hugh MacDonald disagreed with the protesters. Disputing Chevalier’s claim that the student received permission to wear the flag, MacDonald denied that the teacher’s request had anything to do with Chevalier’s flag cape being a rainbow one. He said Chevalier has been allowed to wear the cape routinely, but told the Edmonton Journal the ceremony was “no time to show anything like that off.” MacDonald commented about the student:

” ‘We all get him. He’s not a bad kid. But he can be aggressive and he can be single-minded.’ “

Students are divided about Chevalier’s cape. While he has supporters, detractors say the cape would be “disrespectful for the event” and that reactions are “out of proportion.” Blake Morrison, who has two mothers, called the cape “insulting.”

Chevalier hopes school administrators will apologize for making him remove the cape, but that does not seem likely, according to Principal MacDonald. If the school does not offer a satisfying resolution, Chevalier may file a human rights complaint.

This incident emerges in an already tense situation for Catholic schools in Alberta. The Education Ministry is requiring all publicly funded schools, which include Catholic systems like Edmonton’s, to develop LGBTQ policies by March 31. Discussions about these have been heated. The Edmonton Catholic School Board’s meetings erupted into a “shouting match” last fall and approved “just discrimination” of some youth last December. Calgary’s bishop described recent guidelines for the LGBTQ policies as “totalitarian” and “anti-Catholic.

The harsh rhetoric and hyperbolic acts which have surrounded this debate for months have only hurt students like Dylan Chevalier who may already feel marginalized. Incidents like the flag controversy at St. Joseph further reveal the need for clearly articulated and supportive LGBTQ policies. Alberta’s Education Minister David Eggen met with the province’s four bishops to help advance their common interest in helping all students flourish. Collaborative efforts are more effective at making all feel welcomed and affirmed, perhaps eliminating the need for rainbow flag capes and human rights complaints altogether. Less conflict is always beneficial.

I hope Alberta’s bishops and Catholic school trustees can come to see that Catholic education is actually strengthened when sexual and gender diverse students are welcomed and supported, rainbow flags and all.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

 

5 Responses to Gay Student Asked to Remove Rainbow Flag at Canadian Catholic School

  1. Brian Kneeland says:

    NO matter what they SAY – the result is the same – the student can no longer feel accepted in his school – which is wrong!

  2. C G Jones says:

    Not being familiar with the school or its dress code, I don’t know the entire situation. All of the Catholic schools I attended or worked in would have asked a student to remove any non-code clothing. Why not let the rule be flexible here? Because it’s opens the door to haters who use that flexibility as a means to bring in their vitriol.
    As for the young man and his ‘in your face’ way of being. Being a gay teen in a straight world is not easy. The usual human search for identity is complicated by a society that generally attempts to keep the gay teen from accepting their true self. Sometimes there is the need to be ‘in your face,’ just to survive.
    It’s no secret that gay teens have a higher rate of suicide than other teens.

    • Kathleen says:

      Let me first say that cultural attitudes and collective group thought evolve thanks to the Dylans of our world! That being said, I see the same dress code/uniform issue as you CG. Both of my sons went to catholic school and the dress code was enforced. As important as it is for Dylan to put his/our message out there, he has to find a way to express his identity without dismanteling dress codes that are valued in catholic schools. Now that Dylan has everyone’s attention, he has a golden opportunity to help negotiate new, modern terms of lgbt visibility to further advance equality in the mainstream of his life and in his catholic school for all lgbt minority students. We can all make a difference in the mainstreams of our lives.

  3. Friends says:

    Again, I think the root problem here is the hatefulness and the social retrogression pertinent to Alberta and its government and its social climate. If he were a gay student at virtually any Jesuit college (and probably any Jesuit high school) here in the United States, I believe that he would be loved and respected for the person that he is. We have “chapter and verse” cited over and over again about the respect that Jesuit institutions accord to their GLBT students. What IS the root problem with Alberta and its cultural attitudes, anyway?

  4. Nobie Cop says:

    The problem is not the Catholic Schools or the teachers who overwhelmingly support LGBTQ students as does their teacher Association. The problem is the Bishops in Alberta who have followed their pied piper Bishop Henry. Secondly, there are political considerations such Catholic Schools in Alberta are equally funded by government and the curriculum is mandated, except for catholic religious studies. He is a good man but speaks out on every issue under the sun and few listen anymore and just role their eyes. Finally, the Bishops have failed to present a logical argument that a listener or reader can reflectively think about as we do not know how he reached his conclusions. Usually money speaks, and the Bishops will likely not risk losing publically funded schools.

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