Penticton Secondary School is going to get a bit more colourful this summer, or at least its crosswalks are.
A group of students, along with teacher Lesley Lacroix, are planning to paint the two crosswalks leading from the school building to the parking lot in a rainbow of colours next week.
The students approached the school board after the June 12 incident in Orlando, where a gunman targeted LGBTQ (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Questioning) patrons at a night club, killing 49 people and wounding 53.
Lacroix said the Orlando shootings brought everything to a boiling point for the students.
“And I think a feeling by these students that enough is enough and we need a really overt statement that this is a place where kids are welcome and that we are not going to tolerate bullying, antagonism, homophobia any longer.”
Linda Van Alphen, chair of the Okanagan Skaha School Board, said the students approached the board and asked if they could possibly paint a rainbow-coloured sidewalk at Penticton Secondary School.
“This was a group of very passionate young people. They were talking about respect and tolerance. They felt this was a symbol of respect and tolerance for Penticton Secondary,” said Van Alphen, who said their initial plan was to address the request in September, when the board resumed regular meetings.
The students weren’t willing to wait, and told the trustees that they were in Grade 12, and wanted to see that this was something the board was committed to before they left the school.
The students got what they wanted at a special meeting called June 24 to deal with funding applications.
“They were over the moon, they were so excited,” said Lacroix. “It’s a group of kids who certainly identify as LGBTQ, who have some very personal anecdotes about what they have experienced. It is their friends, who have a great deal of compassion for their fellow classmates and the kind of struggles they see them going through.”
Trustee Ginny Manning appreciated the courage and bravery it took the students to stand up.
“They want to be able to feel safe at school. This is the one place that they want to feel safe, they want to encourage others not to hide; just be who they are,” said Manning.
The board of education is planning to continue the conversation in September, and look at its policies to strengthen and clarify language around acceptance of other lifestyles.