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York Catholic school board, parents respond after some argue against safe space stickers
March 30, 2023
Shauna Hunt

Some teachers use safe space stickers to signal acceptance to the 2SLGBTQ+ community, but in York Region, certain parents with the Catholic school board are denouncing them, saying the ​stickers are not in line with their religious beliefs.

At a York Catholic District School Board (YCDSB) meeting on Wednesday, one mother of a transgender son expressed outrage over the comments made by other parents on the safe space stickers.

“I am finding it difficult to comprehend why a gesture which is intended to show respect and love and to protect those who are in desperate need of our protection, the essence of Christianity, is being met with such vitriol and condemnation. It has shaken me to the core,” said Dina Mayr as she defended her son.

“I submit to you that it is precisely that because we are Catholic that we need to do better and see more of this.”

Police were called to the school board meeting in February to disperse parents who were heckling speakers and making homophobic and transphobic remarks.

“We need to be doing our job, all of us. We need to be building community. What we saw here last month from both sides was disgusting,” said another father, Franco DeFrancesco.

Safe space stickers distributed by Ontario English Catholic Teacher’s association
The video stream has since been taken down. Shortly after, the YCDSB sent home a letter acknowledging a “violation in our code of conduct in that the delegations did not treat all members of our community with dignity and respect at all times.”

“An Ontario study recently reported that 77 per cent of trans youth have seriously considered suicide. For Catholics that believe every life is sacred, those numbers are unacceptable,” added the Director of Education Domenic Scuglia Wednesday night.

The Ontario English Catholic Teacher’s association distributed the safe space stickers in January. While the school board was not required to approve them, the YCDSB said it supports teachers who do or don’t display them based on their personal beliefs.

“It made me think about why I don’t have a stronger connection to faith, and it’s because we don’t feel included in these spaces,” said Tristan Coolman, the head of Pflag in York Region.

Coolman tells CityNews the school board had an opportunity to be a leader.

“They didn’t come out and say those stickers are allowed, and that’s what we need a leader to do. We need a leader to stand up and take a very important stance and obvious stance,” said Coolman.

“We can tell they are trying to balance their own opinions in Catholicism equity and inclusivity that drives all of their decision-making at the school board.”

The YCDSB said it’s committed to supporting the well-being of all children and is having conversations about flying the pride flag this year, with additional details shared in June.