Regina’s southwest end is looking more colourful after Grades 6 to 8 students at École Harbour Landing School painted a rainbow crosswalk in support of the city’s LGBTQ community Monday.
The project is in honour of Pride Month, but will last long beyond June with touch-ups every spring.
The elementary school’s Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA) club applied to the City of Regina to paint the crosswalk in October with it becoming a reality during the Queen City’s Pride Week.
Jason Howse, the teacher leading École Harbour Landing School’s GSA club, said the crosswalk symbolizes stepping into a safe and welcoming space for everybody.
“As we think about the needs of LGBTQ+ students, we really need to consider that safety element — that safety around how you identify, that safety around knowing that there are allies in your space, and this is just a visual metaphor for that,” he said.
Those feelings were echoed by Grade 6 student Fanta Jalloh.
“It doesn’t matter what you identify as or your sexuality or anything like that,” said Jalloh, adding awareness of the LGBTQ community at a young age is important because it’s hard for young people to come out.
Madison Brentnell, who’s also in Grade 6, said she hopes the crosswalk will promote inclusiveness.
“I hope that people think, ‘maybe we can be more supporting,'” she said. “I hope (in) seeing that it’s okay (to be different), maybe more people will feel accepted.”
— Jason Howse (@MrHExperience) June 11, 2018
Ward 2 Councillor Bob Hawkins noted this rainbow crosswalk was passed “unanimously” by city council as a pilot project, along with three others, which will soon be painted around Regina as well.
Hawkins added he doesn’t “anticipate any negativity” or vandalism to the crosswalk, like what’s been seen in Saskatoon. He assured all of Regina’s rainbow crosswalks will be “kept up and kept safe.”
Learning about gender diversity throughout the school year
While École Harbour Landing School’s GSA club is proud to support the LGBTQ community during Pride Week, Howse said the group keeps the conversation around gender and sexual diversity going all school year long.
“What we do in an elementary school is a lot different than what you’d see with some of the older groups, but we explore what it means to unpack gender and what a complex web that could be,” he explained.
“A lot of it just comes down to understanding identity and understanding that you have the right to identify how you identify.”
Howse added a GSA club is a place where kids can go to establish themselves as allies and make sure an LGBTQ student has a safe place to go for support.
Eighth grader Jayden Baker joined the group last fall and said older students, like herself, are learning tools to teach others how to be more inclusive.
“They’ve went to the younger students, taught them about this and then if some kid is being mean and saying, ‘that’s so gay’ or something, they’ve taught them by saying, ‘that’s wrong — do not do that.'”
According to Howse, École Harbour Landing is one of six public elementary schools in Regina with a GSA club.
— With files from Jessie Anton and Jayda Noyes