Monique LaGrange stated the Holy Spirit told her to “go for it” and post a meme that likened LGBTQ pride to Nazi Germany. The details were released publicly by the board on Tuesday.
Document released by board details disciplinary measures for post that likened LGBTQ pride to Nazi Germany
Mrinali Anchan · CBC News
A Red Deer Catholic School Board trustee says the Holy Spirit told her to “go for it” and post a meme that likened LGBTQ pride to Nazi Germany.
The details became public in a 15-page document released by the school board noting discussions between the board, trustee Monique LaGrange and her lawyer, James Kitchen, between Sept. 25 and 26.
LaGrange 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.
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.
The board said LaGrange’s post violated the act, which requires students to be entitled to welcoming, caring, respectful and safe learning environments that respect diversity and nurture a sense of belonging and a positive sense of self.
Kitchen said the details in the document would have become public eventually because a judicial review would be pursued in an attempt to have the decision overturned.
“They’re going to become public, in any event, if we judicially review it, which I already had instructions to do,” Kitchen said in an interview.
“So I said, we might as well just immediately jump to that point, issue the reasons, and then make them public, which is just good for basic accountability and transparency and public scrutiny.”
The document says LaGrange “was clear that her beliefs informed her views: she stated the Holy Spirit had told her to post the meme and that this was something she should do.”
The document goes on to say that LaGrange told the board that the Holy Spirit told her to “Go for it.”
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 publicly represent the board or school division or make statements about the LGBTQ community and the Holocaust.
The board had initially passed a motion asking the minister of education to dismiss LaGrange from her role after she refused their request for an apology.
“There has to be specific allegations. There wasn’t any because, at this point, no trustee had filed an official complaint, so they really jumped the gun,” Kitchen said.
LaGrange argued that the proceedings were tainted by procedural unfairness and bias and should be stayed, the document stated.
The document further notes the process was undertaken based on the board’s initial misunderstanding that the minister was responsible for reviewing and assessing the trustee’s conduct.
However, the minister informed the board that determining LaGrange’s status was the board’s responsibility.
“Each board member determined that they held an open mind and were able to fairly and impartially hear the trustee’s arguments, consider them without pre-determination, and render a fair decision,” the document states.
‘Did the meme contravene the code of conduct?’
Other issues discussed during the two-day meeting included determining whether the meme is protected by charter rights and whether it “contravened Roman Catholic values.”
When considering whether the meme went against the Trustee Code of Conduct, the board stated it does not dispute that LaGrange has sincerely held religious beliefs.
LaGrange’s argument focused, to a large extent, on her freedom to hold her beliefs and her ability to act on the same in her private life.
“Freedom of expression generally, including that of a school board trustee is not absolute,” the board stated.
“The trustee’s freedom to express her views (via the meme post) must be balanced against the board’s duty and right to operate in the context of, and in a manner consistent with, the preservation and enhancement of the board’s mandate,”
This includes the board’s duty to comply with the Education Act and to maintain a positive school environment, the document stated.
“Students have the right to a school system free from bias, prejudice and intolerance, and as a role model and representative of the corporate board, the trustee occupies an important role within the education system that extends beyond the classroom.”
The school division serves more than 10,650 students in 21 schools in Red Deer, Blackfalds, Sylvan Lake, Rocky Mountain House, Innisfail, and Olds, as well as an at-home learning program. It supports the learning of over 1,095 students in a parent-led home education program.
CBC News has requested comment from the board regarding the judicial review and status of an apology from LaGrange.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mrinali is a reporter with CBC Edmonton with an interest in stories about housing and labour. She has worked in newsrooms across the country in Toronto, Windsor and Fredericton. She has chased stories for CBC’s The National, CBC Radio’s Cross Country Checkup and CBC News Network. Reach out at Mrinali.firstname.lastname@example.org