SPRINGDALE, NL — A trio of poised and composed students of Indian River High’s Gender Sexuality Alliance (GSA) presented their case for painting a rainbow crosswalk to Springdale council tonight (April 23).
It has been a controversial issue in the town — one that has captured the attention of many throughout the country — since council denied the original request in the form of a letter during its last public council meeting two weeks ago.
Other than issuing a statement Friday expressing its gratitude for the public support, but condemning the negative comments and attacks on council members and the community, the students and school representatives had declined comment until tonight.
While the council chambers reached its capacity of about 40 people well before the meeting, about another 50 gathered outside the door of the town hall.
Ruth Cameron, Indian River High vice principal and teacher sponsor for the GSA, reiterated those comments at the council meeting before turning the floor over to the students for the presentation. She said this is not about changing people’s beliefs, but about an inclusive initiative.
Claudia Lilly, a Grade 12 student and GSA member, explained to council what a GSA was and its purpose. Personally, she said the growth in the school and its environment has enabled her to identify as a bisexual youth, after years of confusion regarding her sexuality.
“After joining I quickly realized who I am should not be hidden,” she said. “Because of this group I am proud of my identity and willing to be here and speak in front of you all today.”
Maria Lawlor, an “ally” member of the GSA, said she believes a rainbow crosswalk would help make everybody feel safe, included, and loved. She said mental health is a significant concern for youth, especially those within the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning (LGBTQ) community.
One of the concerns expressed by Mayor Dave Edison in turning down this request was the 28 signatures on the letter was not a true representation of the school population.
But Lawlor explained the letter was not a petition, but primarily those within the GSA and some friends.
She also listed a number of other towns and cities in the province positively impacted by having such a symbol in their community.
Megan Paddock, a 16-year-old Grade 11 student, explained the rainbow crosswalk and what it symbolizes.
She said the students would be willing to raise the money for the painting, to help alleviate one of the concerns about the use of taxpayers’money.
“This is a chance to start a conversation,” she said. “Diversities are of thinking independently together. Although some of us fear diversity, it only makes us stronger.”
Some members of council — who previously denied the request for a rainbow crosswalk by a 4-3 margin — addressed the students following the presentation.
While the decision was not on the agenda for a vote Monday, those who did speak praised the students for their courage.
Coun. Rhodes Pelley asked the students, because the decision was so divided, if there was another symbolic gesture council could assist with to portray a message of inclusion.
Paddock responded that the rainbow crosswalk was most important to them, and they continue to ask that of council.
It was evident that members of council wished to continue discussions with the GSA, and eventually it is expected the request will be revisited.
No indication was given as to whether there was a chance the decision would be upheld or overturned.
Deputy Mayor Shawn Weir said council had a lot of information it would have to review, and asked the GSA for their patience to allow that to happen.
**** story edited 24-04-2018*****