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Pride flag burned at Kitchener, Ont., high school, police investigate 'hate-motivated' incident

A Pride flag reportedly was stepped on and burned near Eastwood Collegiate Institute in Kitchener, Ont., on Thursday afternoon. Police are investigating. (Jane Robertson/CBC - image credit)
A Pride flag reportedly was stepped on and burned near Eastwood Collegiate Institute in Kitchener, Ont., on Thursday afternoon. Police are investigating. (Jane Robertson/CBC - image credit)

Police are investigating after a group of teenagers reportedly took a Pride flag from a Kitchener, Ont., high school, then stepped on it and set fire to it in what they're calling a "hate-motivated incident."

On Thursday, a group 15- to 17-year-olds took the flag from Eastwood Collegiate Institute (ECI), Waterloo regional police said Friday. Police were unable to say where in the school the flag was before it was taken.

They said the flag was stepped on and burned in the area of Weber Street East and Jackson Avenue, which is an intersection near the school.

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No physical injuries were reported.

School board taking incident 'very seriously'

The Waterloo Region District School Board issued a statement Friday morning saying it was "deeply saddened and concerned."

"We want parents, families and the wider community to know that we are taking this incident very seriously," the statement said. "We would like to thank the WRPS for their support, and will continue to work with them and community partners to support the safety of our community.

"As a school district, we are deeply committed to the safety of our students, and to creating and maintaining identify-affirming learning environments, where everyone feels safe and experiences a sense of belonging [for] all members of our community."

The board said it would not provide further comment as the police investigation involves students.

Actions 'will not be tolerated': principal

Eastwood Collegiate principal Ryan Hume sent an email to parents that was obtained by CBC News, and the school board has confirmed it's authentic.

Hume said in the email that rocks also may have been thrown at students who identify as LGBTQ as they boarded a bus.

"I want to acknowledge that while all students and staff at Eastwood could have been affected by these violent and hateful actions, it is especially harmful to members of the 2SLGBTQIA+ communities. I want to reassure every member of the ECI community that we are taking this event very seriously."

Hume also noted members of the school board's critical events response team would be at the school Friday to offer support to students and staff.

"As a result of this incident, we are reminded of the importance of educating Eastwood students about historic and contemporary examples of anti-2SLGBTQIA+ hate and violence, as well as the importance of supporting all students who have been harmed by hate speech or other acts of intolerance," Hume's email said.

"All students, families and community members have the right to feel safe in their school environment. These types of actions will not be tolerated."

Anyone with information related to this case is asked to call police at 519-570-9777.