June 12, 2020 --
Duchess Park Secondary School sent an important, colourful message to its students on Friday afternoon.
Close to 45 staff members gathered for a photo in Duchess Park's largest common area, known as the Canyon. All were dressed in colors of the Pride flag, representative of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer communities. June is Pride Month in Canada, and with many students absent from the school because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Duchess staff member Nicolle Therrien decided a group photo of this nature would be a meaningful way to connect with students and remind them that their school family is still there for them in spirit.
"I wanted to show the students that the staff still care and support inclusivity from a distance, and that we stand up and unite for Pride Month," said Therrien, Duchess Park's Community Schools Coordinator and SOGI lead. SOGI stands for Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and is an aspect of diversity that is embedded across a range of grades and subject areas in B.C. schools.
Each colour of the Pride flag is symbolic: red means life, orange means healing, yellow means sunshine, green means nature, blue means harmony and purple means spirit.
Under normal circumstances, Therrien and education assistant Brian Stanley meet face-to-face on a weekly basis with Duchess Park's GSA (Gay Straight Alliance) Group. Those meetings are now being held via videoconference.
"It has been a forum that has allowed us to continue to come together to connect and share about how life is going and have some laughter through playing games," Therrien said. "In celebration of Pride Month we are having guest speakers Scout Gray and Jean Baptiste join us. I did not want students to feel isolated with the pandemic and hoped for them to continue to feel connected to their school community."
Gray, a SOGI 1 2 3 program lead for the ARC Foundation, works to ensure B.C. and Alberta schools are safe spaces for youth of all sexual orientations and gender identities. Baptiste works with Trans Care BC as regional coordinator and also with the Northern Gender Clinic team.
Due to COVID-19, Duchess Park had to cancel its planned Pride activities. Presentations to students on the subjects of education and acceptance were in the works and a Pride parade was also a possibility.