A central Alberta school trustee, accused of tweeting racist, sexist and homophobic material, says he regrets his behaviour, but will not step down.
Jim Andre, a newly-elected trustee for the Battle River School Division based in Camrose, tweeted and retweeted profane comments and jokes denigrating black people, Jewish people and others.
- "Watching black people on maury povich ... not hard to tell the porch monkey gene still runs wild" --Andre tweeted May 24th under the username @hotone1963.
- "The real crime of Aushwitz? All those carbon emissions," -- retweeted May 19th from an account labelled @TheFunnyRacist.
- "F--K u BRSD (Battle River School Division)..." -- tweeted May 17th.
The tweets were brought to the attention of Kris Wells, with the Institute for Sexual Minority Studies & Services at the University of Alberta.
"There can be no question that Mr. Andre's personal comments, and his retweets, are incredibly offensive and inappropriate for any member of public office," he wrote in a letter to Education Minister Jeff Johnson, the BRSD and the Alberta School Board Association.
"His pattern of tweets clearly indicate that this is not a simple mistake in judgment or one time occurrence," Wells said. "It is questionable as to whether a person who publicly ascribes to these views is fit for public office."
'Something I regret'
Andre's Twitter account has been deleted, but not before Wells saved many of the tweets. CBC News was also able to recover some of the cached tweets.
Andre admitted he now considers the tweets inappropriate and he needs to issue a public apology.
"Basically its something I retweeted on Twitter, something I regret," he told CBC News.
Andre denied that he himself is racist, misogynist or homophobic.
Education Minister Jeff Johnson said he has spoken with the division chair about the tweets.
"I'm incredibly disappointed,"he said. "That kind of behaviour is unacceptable today with any trustees."
However, Johnson said he leave any consequences to the BRSD, which has distanced itself from Andre's messages.
"The BRSD Board would like to make clear that these statements are in no way associated with
the school division," Diane Hutchinson, communications coordinator for the school board, wrote in a news release.
The tweets were brought to the board's attention during an organizational meeting on Oct. 31st.
Board looking into removal
School board chairman Kendall Severson is looking into whether the board can get Andre to step down.
"I'd like this cleaned up as quick as possible," he said. "We need to make sure we're looking in and getting legal advice so we know where we stand at this time."
The board said it will review its Code of Ethics, "with a particular emphasis on discussing how the entire board can work together to ensure its members uphold this code at all times," during trustee orientation meetings this month.
It will also participate in social media and digital citizenship training in the future, said Hutchinson, the board's communication coordinator.
"Further training in embracing diversity may also be provided," she said.
Wells said if Andre was a teacher, he would face a charge of unprofessional conduct and may also be found guilty of creating a "poisoned environment" for students in the school district.
"It is unacceptable that any publicly-elected official, and especially a school trustee who is responsible for the education of students from a variety of diverse and vulnerable backgrounds, would be allowed to continue in this elected role without any public accountability for his actions," he said.