A Catholic school board in Red Deer, Alta., ruled Tuesday that a trustee who likened LGBTQ pride to Nazi Germany won’t be removed from her role, despite her violating its Trustee Code of Conduct and the Education Act.
Monique LaGrange, a trustee of Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools (RDCRS), took to Facebook toward the end of August to share a now-deleted meme that featured a picture of children waving Nazi flags above a picture of children waving Pride flags.
“Brainwashing is brainwashing,” the post read.
LaGrange has been facing calls from the Alberta Teachers’ Association (ATA) and the Central Alberta Pride Society to apologize for her comments and step down from the board.
Banned from committee meetings
At a meeting held Tuesday, the board found LaGrange violated the Trustee Code of Conduct and Alberta’s Education Act, but ruled she would not be removed as a trustee.
Instead, LaGrange is censured from attending or participating in committee meetings, including those held by the Alberta School Boards Association and the Alberta Catholic School Trustees’ Association, which has already removed LaGrange from her role as a director.
She also can’t officially represent the board or school division in public or make statements about the LGBTQ community and the Holocaust.
She is, however, still allowed to attend regular board meetings and bring forward “educational-related issues” for discussion or debate.
The provisions began Tuesday and will remain in place until the end of LaGrange’s term in the fall of 2025.
LaGrange declined an interview and directed CBC News to her lawyer.
According to the motion, the censure could be removed if the board’s terms and conditions are met to the satisfaction of the board and if LaGrange acts in accordance with board policy and the Trustee Code of Conduct.
LaGrange is required to successfully complete sensitivity training about the Holocaust and LGBTQ discrimination, as well as training that covers professional school trustee boundaries and appropriate use of social media, cultural sensitivity and human rights.
“The above training is intended to remind the trustee of her role and responsibilities as a school board trustee and to assist the trustee to make better decisions in any further communications, including on social media,” the motion concluded.
LaGrange must also issue a sincere public apology to school division students, staff and the board that recognizes the “inappropriateness” of her actions and that she is “deeply sorry for having offended anyone through her actions.”
In an interview with CBC News on Wednesday, board chair Murray Hollman said the board would launch another trustee code of conduct complaint if LaGrange does not follow through with the outlined provisions.
When asked if the board is worried that the public may perceive its decision as siding with LaGrange’s views, he said that was a concern and that the board is taking actions to collectively resolve the matter.
“That’s our role as trustees; to be in the community and really hammer hard back the commitment that we are welcoming, caring, respectful and have safe learning environments within our division,” said Hollman.
Workshops on human rights
The board has asked superintendent Kathleen Finnigan to arrange meetings and educational workshops for trustees with the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Centre and Alberta Human Rights Commission.
The board will also take part in workshops that look at taking “a pastoral approach” to supporting students in the development and understanding of their sexuality.
“Trustee LaGrange’s social media post does not align with principles and values that guide our division. Trustee LaGrange’s views do not represent the official stance of the board,” Hollman said.
“We deeply regret any distress that these comments may have caused.”
Alberta Education Minister Demetrios Nicolaides — who previously condemned LaGrange’s post and confirmed to CBC News that the board had “full authority and autonomy” to disqualify a sitting trustee — said all school boards are required to develop a trustee code of conduct.
“It is the responsibility of each school board to determine whether a trustee has violated that code of conduct and if so, decide how they want to deal with the matter,” he said in a statement Wednesday.
“The board has the authority and independence to manage its own affairs and I respect their autonomy.”
ATA appreciates severity; Pride society ‘disheartened’
Alberta Teachers’ Association president Jason Schilling, who previously called LaGrange’s comments “repugnant,” said that he has respect for the board’s process and that the allegations were taken seriously.
“Ideally, I would have liked to have seen trustee LaGrange resign, but I appreciate the severity of some of the consequences that the board has put on this trustee,” he said, adding that the ruling to limit LaGrange’s trustee abilities “makes sense.”
Still, Schilling said LaGrange has some learning to do and believes she needs to be fired if she doesn’t comply with the board’s provisions.
“If you’re going to [speak] mistruths and misinformation about 2SLGBTQ+ students and staff and what’s happening in our public schools across this province, then you should not be representing the board,” he said.
Meanwhile, a statement from the Central Alberta Pride Society said members are “saddened and disheartened” by the board’s decision.
The society feels that while the resolution requests are “somewhat adequate,” it’s not enough.
“We still want her removed, whether voluntarily or involuntarily,” the statement reads, saying an appearance and speech during arally in Red Deer on Sept. 20 “speaks volumes” to her beliefs.
“No level of courses or training will change her beliefs toward the LGBTQ2S+ community.”
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