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Some Ottawa parents keep kids home from school due to Pride activities, OCDSB says

As the rainbow flag flew at schools across Ottawa on Thursday, the public school board says some parents kept their children home from school due to possible Pride activities.

Pride month kicked off in Ottawa and around the world on Thursday, a celebration of inclusion, individuality and solidarity with the LGBTQ2+ communities.

The Ottawa-Carleton District School Board and Ottawa Catholic School Board say the Pride flag will fly at all schools and the board offices this month.

On Thursday, Ottawa's public school board reported nine of its schools had absent rates over 40 per cent, with two schools exceeding 60 per cent.

A board spokesperson tells CTV News Ottawa some parents indicated their child would be absent from class due to the possibility of Pride activities.

"Where parents provided information for absences, there were some that kept their children home due to the heat warning in effect. There were also schools with higher absence rates where parents indicated they did not wish to send their children to school due to Pride activities that may be taking place," the OCDSB said.

"We continue our work to ensure that our schools are safe, welcoming, and inclusive learning spaces for all students and staff.”

As the rainbow flag flew at Ottawa Catholic schools on Thursday, Reese Walker felt a sense of community, looking at the many colours of identity the flag represents.

"I think it’s just amazing that so many people at my school are being represented," Walker, a 17-year-old student, said.

"It makes a whole lot of peoples feel included at our school and we have a lot of people of so many identities."

At a York Region high school on Thursday, protesters gathered to denounce the York District Catholic School Board's decision not to fly the Pride flag. Earlier this week, YDCSB Trustees voted 6 to 4 against flying the Pride flag, with the board's chair saying two archbishops had advised against it because it "doesn’t align with our Catholic values."

"I’m glad this is not happening in Ottawa, absolutely, but something has to shift and unfortunately it’s shifting in the wrong direction and it’s very polarized and I really worry about our kids right now," says Angela Prescott, who strongly supports LGBTQ2+ rights.

"This type of ideology that would say certain identities don’t have the right to exist and aren’t allowed to feel safe and celebrated and love. School is a place that needs to be safe for these kids.

"Pride to me is a time when we can acknowledge how hard it is to feel loved for who you are and to feel like it's OK to be who you are. In Pride Month, it’s celebrated and it’s a time to be excited about that and it’s not about accepting, it’s about celebrating and really appreciating that."

At Black Squirrel Books & Espresso Bar, the goal has always been to create a warm and welcoming space for everyone.

"Where we really can celebrate our differences, which is our strengths and be proud of how far we’ve come,” co-owner Steve Yong says.

The shop has an inventory of more than 60,000 books, both new and used, along with a significant amount of literature that exemplifies Pride.

"It’s really great to see the response the community has for new ideas and new perspectives," Yong says. "Even over 20 years there is a lot more openness about people's experiences that are different from the 'mainstream,' and here there is a lot of opportunity to study.”

For Walker, through equity groups and clubs at their high school, like HUGS, Humans Understanding Gender and Sexuality, they and others in the LGBTQ2+ community along with allies, they will continue to advocate, raise awareness and build inclusion.

"I feel that we’re doing a lot for people and promoting a student voice, I’m definitely optimistic," Walker says. "There’s always going to be some people who don’t agree or who have different views in general and I think one day we’ll get to a day where everyone can be included at all schools." Top Stories

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