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Red Deer Catholic schools chair steps down after special meeting regarding anti-LGBTQ+ post

Board passes motion asking Minister of Education about potential dismissal of Monique LaGrange
A special meeting of the Red Deer Catholic School Board was held on Tuesday night to discuss whether further action should be taken against Trustee Monique LaGrange for her anti-gay social media post. (Contributed photo).

As calls grow for the resignation of a Red Deer Catholic school trustee who likened the LGBTQ+ children to Nazi supporters, the school board is asking Alberta’s Education minister to dismiss her.

Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools (RDCRS) convened a Special Board Meeting on Tuesday to discuss the Trustee Code of Conduct matter, related procedures, and next steps regarding Trustee Monique LaGrange’s social media post.

According to a statement sent out by the Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools late on Wednesday afternoon, an additional motion was also passed for the Board of Trustees to write to the Minister of Education and to ask him to dismiss LaGrange.

“Our Division is built upon a foundation of providing quality inclusive education, diversity, trustworthiness, and a commitment to the well-being of our students. Our students and staff, their education, and their safety remain our priority,” states the division in a released statement.

“To this end, if any student, staff or parent requires support, please do not hesitate to contact us.”

LaGrange has never publicly commented or apologized for the post. And little else is known about the discussion at the special meeting — except that it was divisive.

Anne Marie Watson said Wednesday she stepped down as chair of the Red Deer Catholic School Board over a resolution the board had voted on.

In the release, RDCRS confirmed that Trustee Murray Hollman was appointed as the new Board Chair and Trustee Dorraine Lonsdale as the new Vice-Chair.

While Watson remains a trustee, she no longer speaks for the board. Therefore, she said she did not want to break the Trustee Code of Conduct by revealing what happened at the meeting.

Hollman could not be reached for comment on Wednesday. According to past practice, the minutes of last night’s school board meeting will not be made public until after trustees approve them at their next meeting on Sept. 26.

The Red Deer Catholic School Board held the special meeting on Tuesday night to discuss whether to take further action against LaGrange.

Last week, the trustee posted to social media two photos that likened 2SLGBTQIA+ children to the youth movement of Hitler’s Nazi regime. The caption stated “Brainwashing is brainwashing.”

After the Red Deer Queer Community Association and other Red Deerians expressed hurt and outrage over the post, the local Catholic school board responded by saying that LaGrange’s sentiments “do not align with the principles and values that guide our division.”

The Red Deer Catholic school board preferred using a “conciliatory approach” in dealing with the situation. Under provisions of the Trustee Code of Conduct, LaGrange was asked to remove the post, which she did. But many community members felt this did not go far enough and called for LaGrange to apologize, be censured, or to resign.

Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center, one of Canada’s leading human rights and social advocacy organizations, sent a letter to Watson earlier this week to express their concerns.

“Comparing the LGBTQ+ community to the Nazi regime, especially considering the Nazis’ persecution of the minority group, is abhorrent and a form of Holocaust distortion,” the group also noted in a post on social media.

“We stand with #Alberta’s LGBTQ+ community in denouncing this offensive post shared by trustee LaGrange, and have offered our educational programs to the school board.”

Alberta Teacher’s Association President Jason Schilling is also calling for LaGrange to resign or face sanctions.

“Too much time has passed since this hateful post by Trustee LaGrange surfaced, and we still do not have any public statement from the trustee. LaGrange’s inaction leaves us to conclude that the trustee has no understanding of, or remorse for, the harm she has caused,” said Schilling.

He called LaGrange’s Instagram post “vile and repugnant. Not only does it serve to undermine the atrocities of the Nazi regime, but it also acts as a form of oppression to entice further hatred toward members of the 2SLGBTQ+ community.”

Monique LeGrange is a distant relative, through marriage, of Alberta Health Minister Adriana LaGrange. The Red Deer-North MLA, who is also the former Education Minister and former chair of the Red Deer Catholic School Board, was among those spoke out against the anti-2SLGBTQIA+ sentiments of Monique’s post.

“As a former school board trustee, I strongly believe all students should feel safe and welcome in their classroom. I was disappointed to learn about this social media post and I disavow the message it sends,” said the Red Deer-North MLA.

Lana Michelin

About the Author: Lana Michelin

Lana Michelin has been a reporter for the Red Deer Advocate since moving to the city in 1991.
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