Winnipeg school's Pride flag stolen days after LGBT, Indigenous books taken from teacher's classroom

Ross Meacham, principal of Riverbend Community School, says the school's Pride flag was stolen sometime over the weekend.  (Alana Cole/CBC - image credit)
Ross Meacham, principal of Riverbend Community School, says the school's Pride flag was stolen sometime over the weekend. (Alana Cole/CBC - image credit)

A Winnipeg school was left shaken after its Pride flag was stolen just days after several books that covered LGBT and Indigenous themes were taken from a teacher's classroom.

The flag was stolen sometime over the weekend from Riverbend Community School, a K to 5 school in Winnipeg.

Whoever took the flag also left an anonymous note on the window, said the school's principal, Ross Meacham.

"It said, 'You may have noticed that your Pride flag is gone.' It said that you shouldn't be teaching that at school. It said it's not wholesome. It said something like, 'people can be gay on their own time,'" he said.

"It was really offensive. It was full of hate."

Meacham said the flag was mounted on a flag post that was anchored in a brick attached to the school's exterior, so someone would have had to use a ladder and chisel to take it down.

Alana Cole/CBC
Alana Cole/CBC

The fact that someone went through all that effort left Meacham incredibly angry.

"That flag means a lot. It means that every single kid that walks through this school belongs here. It means everything to be able to be who you are when you come to school," he said.

"So when someone takes that away from you, it's like they're erasing you or silencing you."

Meacham said another Pride flag was put up inside the school immediately after the theft, and the school plans to replace the outdoor flag as soon as possible.

Books stolen

The theft comes less than a week after multiple books went missing from Amanda Karpinsky's classroom.

Karpinski said she thinks the books, which included LGBT and Indigenous themes, were taken overnight last Tuesday.

"I came to school the next day and noticed an entire shelf was cleared out," she said.

They still haven't shown up, so they're presumed to have been stolen, Karpinsky said.

She said they're more than just literature to her.

"It's not just that we use them for teaching, it's about making kids feel like they belong and that they're accepted," she said.

Karpinski said the books that were taken included You Came From My Heart, which was written by her wife, Brenlee Coates, when their daughter was born.

"You know, for that book to not be there anymore was really hard," Karpinski said.

WATCH | Teacher Amanda Karpinsky explains what the books meant to her: 

Karpinsky said she was devastated to see that the school's flag was stolen, too.

"It's more than just a symbol of pride. It's a symbol of, 'It's OK to be who you are,'" she said.

"So knowing that it was gone and that someone put so much effort into taking it down means there was a lot of hate behind it."

The theft of the flag has been reported to Winnipeg police, who confirmed they are investigating.

Coming together 

In the face of these incidents, the school's staff and students have come together to support each other, painting Pride flags and posting them around the school.

Alana Cole/CBC
Alana Cole/CBC

Alex Pustogorodsky, another teacher at Riverbend Community School, said it was encouraging to see.

She said she wants whoever took the flag, and the books, to know that the school works really hard to make sure its students feel safe and included regardless of who they are — and that the flag and books are a big part of that.

"We don't have those books to tell kids who and how to be. We have them to support them. We have children here who need them," she said.

"And so these books, these flags, are only here to support who we already are. We're not pushing anything on anyone."