In a colourful gesture of solidarity with their LGBTQ+ peers and the broader queer community, Grade 6 and 7 students at J. Alfred Laird Elementary School painted the crosswalk leading to their school with love.
“It’s gonna be beautiful,” one of the students said.
In January when the students asked council for permission to paint the crosswalk at 13th Avenue and 13th Street, they were met with wholehearted support. Back then councillor Greg Anderson praised them for the “real noble thing that you’re taking on.”
The painting party on Wednesday, May 15th was a joyous affair with council representatives and staff from the District of Invermere on site congratulating the students.
Before the students – seven of whom showed up in tie-dyed t-shirts – were set loose on the street, there was a brief opening ceremony where they were asked why they wanted to paint the crosswalk.
“So people know that our school welcomes everyone,” one student said.
“It makes kids feel that they can be in their skin,” said another.
“It’s your space too. We’re going to appreciate you no matter what you like,” chimed in one more.
Mayor Al Miller thanked the students for their bright idea and the opportunity to make the community more welcoming for everyone.
“We want to be inclusive,” he told the them. “We’re very proud to be a part of this.”
Mayor Miller wasn’t the only one feeling pride as he surveyed the students rolling and brushing their good intentions over the street.
One boy said: “I feel so proud of myself. I got two high fives and a hug from the mayor.”
A day after the paint had dried, a Cheers and Jeers Facebook post questioning why the colours didn’t match the Pride flag had received 84 comments, with some criticizing the paint choices and others supporting rainbows of any colour. (The Cheers and Jeers page is not affiliated with the Pioneer.)
Chris Prosser, chief administrative officer for the district, said that staff requested colours from their supplier for a rainbow crosswalk and that they used the paint they received. Regardless of the colour scheme in the crosswalk, he said: “The kids were trying to do the right thing, and we were trying to support them.”
Columbia Valley Pride shared their perspective with a post on their Facebook page.
“Congratulations to the students and staff of J.A Laird for their accomplishment of the beautiful, colourful crosswalk. It might not be a typical rainbow, but we know the intent and heart that went into it. We are so grateful for everything the students and staff have done to make their school and our community a safer, more diverse, and colourful place to live,” they wrote, adding they would like it painted the right shades next time.
Back at the crosswalk where jubilant students were spreading buckets of kindness with the support of their teachers and their local government, one told a friend: “I can’t wait to go on this.”
Another said, “I’m so happy right now.”