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Red Deer Catholic school trustee keeps her seat, but must apologize for anti-Pride post

Monique LaGrange is ordered to take sensitivity training
The Red Deer Catholic School Board decided to censure Trustee Monique LaGrange for her anti-gay social media post instead of removing her from the board. (Contributed photo).

A Red Deer Catholic School trustee has been ordered to take sensitivity training and to apologize for posting photographs comparing children carrying Pride flags to Nazi supporters.

But Monique LaGrange will get to keep her position as a school board trustee.

After a mostly closed-door meeting that stretched over two days this week, LaGrange’s fellow trustees determined that she had violated the board’s Code of Conduct and the Education Act by posting the offensive meme to social media on about Aug. 27.

LaGrange showed photos of two groups of children on her personal Facebook account — young Nazi supporters in the 1940s and contemporary allies of 2SLGBTQ+ people were shown side-by-side with the caption “brainwashing is brainwashing.”

This post was widely condemned — from Pride groups to educators, including the Alberta Teachers Association, to the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Centre, one of Canada’s leading human rights organizations.

The Catholic School division received hundreds of calls, emails and letters, both from people condemning her and some who showed support for LaGrange.

Many outraged Albertans had called for LaGrange to be removed from the school board — but that did not happen this week. Board chair Murray Hollman declined to explain the rationale behind the decision to allow her to keep her board seat, saying he must not divulge what happened at in-camera meetings.

Instead, LaGrange’s fellow board members decided to censure her. According to a statement released by Hollman, she will no longer be able to attend board committee meetings and conferences, and shall not represent the board or school division in any official capacity, including school functions, including award ceremonies assemblies and graduations, nor can she speak to media outlets.

LaGrange is also to cease making public statements relating to the 2SLGBTQ+ community and the Holocaust.

She is to take sensitivity training at her own expense within 90 days, and upon completing this, she must issue a “sincere public letter of apology to school division students, staff and the board, in relation to the meme” that recognizes the inappropriateness of her actions “and that the trustee is deeply sorry for having offended anyone.”

If LaGrange fulfills these outlined obligations to the board’s satisfaction, some of the sanctions levied at her could be lifted before her term on the board expires.

The board also requested that Superintendent Kathleen Finnigan set up a meeting with representatives of the Friends of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, and arrange an educational workshop for the whole board with the Alberta Human Rights Commission. The board prescribed “workshops on a pastoral approach to support students in the development and understanding of their sexuality.”

Hollman said the LaGrange matter resulted in difficult discussions. But he stated that the Red Deer Catholic School Division believes in inclusivity, diversity and is committed to the well-being of all students.

Representatives from the Red Deer Queer Community Association, which had previously expressed hurt and outrage over LaGrange’s post and the board’s delay in taking action, were not immediately available for comment on Thursday morning.

But the Central Alberta Pride Society stated the group’s members are “both saddened and disheartened by the decision to allow Monique LaGrange to remain as a trustee, ” While the board’s censuring demands were “somewhat adequate,” the group feels “this is not enough…We still want her removed, whether voluntarily or involuntarily.

The Society goes on to state that LaGrange’s recent appearance and speech during the 1 Million March in Red Deer on Sept. 20 “speaks volumes to the fact no level of courses or training will change her beliefs towards the LGBTQ2S+ community.”

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