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Red Deer Catholic school board has authority to dismiss trustee, says Education minister

Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools says Monique LaGrange's Facebook Story does not align with the principles and values that guide the division
Trustee Monique LaGrange. File photo

The Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools (RDCRS) division has the authority to dismiss a trustee if it deems such a move necessary, but Alberta Education does not have that authority, the minister said in a statement to the Albertan.

RDCRS convened a special board meeting on Tuesday to discuss the Trustee Code of Conduct matter related to a Facebook post reportedly made by trustee Monique LaGrange that appeared to liken the Pride movement to Nazism.

In a post on her personal Facebook account on or around Aug. 31, trustee LaGrange posted two photos, one showing children waving Nazi flags and one showing children waving rainbow Pride flags. The caption accompanying the photos stated: “Brainwashing is brainwashing.”

In his statement, Education Minister Demetrios Nicolaides said: “This matter is currently in front of the board, who has full authority and autonomy to disqualify a sitting trustee. The board has indicated that they are seeking advice on the code of conduct, and then will proceed accordingly. The board has assured me that they will handle this in a quick and effective manner. 

“It is important to note that under the Education Act I do not have the authority to remove or dismiss a single trustee, and only the board has the ability to do so.”

Education Act Section 87(1) and 87(1) states that “a person is disqualified from remaining as a trustee of a board if that person has breached the code of conduct of the board established under section 33, where the sanction for the breach under the code of conduct may be determined by the board to be disqualification,” he noted.

LaGrange, who was first elected in 2021, has not returned Albertan requests for comment.

In a statement released following Tuesday’s special board meeting, the division said a motion was passed at the meeting “for the Board of Trustees to write to the Minister of Education as to the dismissal of Trustee LaGrange.”

In the same release, the division said trustee Murray Hollman has been appointed the new board chair and trustee Dorraine Lonsdale has been appointed the new vice-chair, both effective on Sept. 5.

The past chair was trustee Anne Marie Watson and the past vice-chair was Cynthia Leyson.

Repeated calls to RDCRS superintendent Kathleen Finnigan seeking comment and further information were not returned.  

The 10,600-student RDCRS division includes schools in Olds and Innisfail.

In statement issued earlier Tuesday, the RDCRS said, “The content of the Facebook Story does not align with the principles and values that guide our Division, and Trustee LaGrange does not speak on behalf of the Board.

“Our division is committed to fostering learning environments that are inclusive, respectful, and considerate of all members of our schools and community. We deeply regret any distress that the comments may have caused.”

The division said it has launched an investigation into the LaGrange matter.

“We will conduct a review of our Trustee Code of Conduct and Division Foundational Statements for Board members to reinforce our commitment to respectful and inclusive communication.

“In response to learning about this matter, we immediately engaged our Trustee Code of Conduct. According to the Code, issues can be handled through a conciliatory approach if all parties are agreeable.”

The Alberta Teachers' Association, which represents more than 46,000 teachers, including in the RDCRS division, issued a release saying “LaGrange’s offensive post is a rejection of this responsibility and an assault upon students and teachers and the entire school community.

“In a recent Facebook post, Red Deer Catholic trustee Monique LaGrange drew a direct parallel between the promotion of fascism in Nazi Germany and efforts to recognize sexual and gender diversity and to create safe and welcoming spaces for all students. This is intended to incite hate.”

The association noted that Section 33(1)(d) of the Education Act states that the “board has the responsibility to ensure that each student enrolled in a school operated by the board and each staff member employed by the board is provided a welcoming, caring, respectful and safe learning environment that respects diversity and fosters a sense of belonging.”

Red Deer Catholic teachers “remain committed to ensuring that all students are welcomed into a safe and caring environment that nurtures and values each individual,” the association said.

“We are further committed to upholding the letter and spirit of both the Alberta Human Rights Act and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, both of which prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. This is more than just a legal requirement, it is a solemn expectation of our profession.

“It remains to be seen whether LaGrange herself will take responsibility for her offensive public posting and make amends to those she has hurt.”

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