WATERLOO -- The Waterloo Catholic District School Board will not be flying any flag to mark Pride month during the month of June.

In a news release Friday, the Board said the flag decision comes following feedback from students and the community.

“It is clear that the WCDSB’s decision to fly a provincially developed image on a flag during June, to mark Pride month, which was intended to send a message of unity and support, has instead led to division,” the release reads in part.

An altered version of the Pride flag, was proposed as an alternative to be flown instead of the internationally-recognized rainbow flag which many students had requested in a petition.

A heated debate sparked when one trustee spoke out in favour of the new flag and against the traditional Pride flag, stating “Pride is the deadliest of the deadly sins.”

He later clarified the comments were taken out of context.

The board says the alternative design will instead be displayed in school foyers throughout the coming school year.

Joan Grundy, a retired Catholic educator who identifies as a member of the LGBTQ community, says she is hopeful these developments could lead to a positive change.

“To me that says they’re willing to listen and they’re willing to grow, and I see that as a very hopeful sign,” said Grundy.

However, Grundy did say her optimism is cautious, and that deeper conversations need to be had, focusing on helping all students feel accepted.

“There’s too many young people not feeling they’re welcomed, included. I always say students should not just survive, but they need to thrive,” said Grundy.

Grundy added that she's hopeful the board will eventually fly the rainbow flag.

“I spoke out very strongly about not putting an alternative flag up, that would be very dishonourable and disrespectful to the history and culture of that flag,” she said. “That is a very powerful symbol to those of us that identify and I really respect the fact that they reconsidered that.”

The Catholic school board says it will continue to consult with the LGBTQ community ahead of Pride 2021.

Local LGBTQ advocates say they hope it will be the first step toward broader conversations about inclusion from the LGBTQ community.

“They are hoping to work with organizations for next steps, which does bring some hope that we can create a space that the LGBTQ community is accepted openly in the Catholic school board,” said Anthony Moore, president of Tri-Pride.

Former Resurrection Catholic Secondary School student Owsten Holderness says no flag being flown sends an even stronger message.

“It just shows that they are not willing to accept any consequences of being out forth with their opinion,” they said.

Holderness adds that LGBTQ Catholic students need more support and remembers times being bullied for being out.

“Some of them are falling off the rails, they’re three times higher addiction rates, suicidal idealation, suicides,” said Grundy on LGBTQ Catholic students. “A lot of the are very wounded young people and so we owe it to them.”