Former student, school officials condemn destruction of Pride flag at N.S. school | CBC News

Former student, school officials condemn destruction of Pride flag at N.S. school | CBC News

Warning: This story describes details of an act of discrimination against members of the LGBTQ community.

A former student and school officials are condemning the destruction of a Pride flag at a Halifax-area high school.

Just before classes let out Thursday at Bay View High School in Tantallon, N.S., the Halifax Regional Centre for Education says some students took part in a “blatant act of discrimination” against the LGBTQ community.

Bay View principal Dunovan Kalberlah said in a note to parents the Pride flag was “removed from the cafeteria and desecrated.”

In a video of the incident obtained by CBC News that has been circulating on social media, students are seen standing around a burning flag as one individual sings Kumbaya and laughter echoes in the background.

“What the f–k are y’all doing?” asks one voice.

“Burning the Pride flag. I told you I was going to,” says another.

For Alina Kogas, an 18-year-old recent graduate who identifies as queer, hearing about the incident and coming across a video of it on Instagram was shocking. Kogas was previously a member of the school’s gender-sexuality alliance.

“The thing that’s most disturbing to me is that it was treated as a joke,” she said. “Because these things … quickly turn from jokes to real-world violence.”

While the RCMP say they are still investigating the incident, Kogas is unequivocal about viewing the desecration of the flag as a hate crime.

“It’s sickening,” she said.

Burning flag sends wrong message, says former student

For the past several years, Kogas and other graduating LGBTQ students have signed the flag as a rite of passage before moving on from the school.

“Signing it was incredibly liberating,” she said.

It’s a way for students to let those who come after them know they’re not alone and that other LGBTQ people have walked in their shoes before them.

There are already plans to replace the flag. Current students have invited past graduates to come back and sign the new one.

While the flag can be replaced, what can’t be erased is the message destroying it sends.

“A lot of times people say it’s just a flag, but it’s a visual representation of the queer community at the school,” said Kogas.

“Having that visual representation then burned is almost a way of saying you’re not safe here — this community is not safe here.”

Principal says school is taking action

In the email sent to families of students, Kalberlah called the incident “unacceptable” and said he is “deeply troubled by what happened.”

“Right now, our focus is on ensuring that we repair the harm that has been caused to our students and community,” he said.

Bay View High School principal Dunovan Kalberlah calls the incident ‘unacceptable.’ (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

Kalberlah said  a member of the centre’s diversity team will be onsite next week to help students and staff process the event.

He said the students involved will face consequences under the province’s code of conduct.

The incident comes as a recent wave of anti-transgender sentiment has spread throughout the U.S. alongside widely publicized legislation like Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill.

‘Stick with your people’

When LGBTQ students at Bay View High return to classes on Monday, many will be fearful.

But Kogas wants them to remember that the good people at her old school — and far beyond it — vastly outnumber the bad.

“Stick with your people and they will stick by you,” Kogas said.


If you are experiencing distress or overwhelming emotions at any time, you can call the Nova Scotia Provincial Crisis Line 24/7 at 1-888-429-8167. The Nova Scotia Provincial Crisis Service can also provide contacts for other crisis services that are available if you live outside Nova Scotia.

If you or someone you know is struggling in any way, you can call 211 or visit 211.ca. 211 offers help 24 hours a day in more than one hundred languages and will be able to connect you directly to the right services for your needs.

The Kids Help Phone is a national helpline that provides confidential support at 1-800-668-6868 or Text CONNECT to 686868.

Additional supports for across Canada are available at www.wellnesstogether.ca.

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