The father of a student in Anglophone School District South is criticizing the district after it promoted a partnership with, and directed its staff to, Masters of Education classes offered by Crandall University — a Christian university with an employment policy that doesn't recognize same-sex marriage.
"I'm not criticizing Crandall here," said Matthew West, whose daughter, Amelia, is bisexual and going into Grade 9 this fall.
"I'm criticizing the Anglophone School District South school board for promoting Crandall."
Greg Paterson, the district's subject co-ordinator for literacy, said the partnership was announced Wednesday.
Designed to help teachers
He said it was he who called the small liberal arts university to ask if it would like to offer its services in the southern part of the district.
"For teachers trying to improve their credentials, whether in literacy, which is my cup of tea, administration or resource," said Paterson.
He said the idea behind offering the courses was to target young and more seasoned teachers looking to brush up their skills.
"It's the only school that offers a specialty in literacy," Paterson said.
"That's what attracted us, nothing on the social side."
Crandall University, based in Moncton, gives all job candidates a document called "community standards."
Jon Ohlhauser, the university's vice president of academic affairs, said the standards stipulate that "sexual intimacy is to be reserved for traditional marriage between a man and a woman and refraining from the use of pornographic material."
Any candidate has to be comfortable accepting those terms before taking a job at the university, Ohlhauser said.
"If you can live with peace with these documents, wonderful," he said.
'Promoting anti-LGBT individuals and lifestyles'
For West, that makes a partnership with the school unacceptable.
"I don't think [Crandall University] should be promoted by our public institutions as a viable place to go for education and upgrade," he said.
"I think the message this would send to [my daughter] is the school district as a whole is promoting anti-LGBT individuals and lifestyles."
West said his daughter already suffers from discrimination, whether subtly or overtly, because of who she loves and this sends the wrong message.
He also said the district should apologize to any LGBT teachers it sent the email with the promotion too.
"I think the message it is sending by promoting this particular university program is — they don't care," he said.
Not your typical partnership
Despite the poster sent in an email to district staff, Paterson said the district has no formal relationship with the university but is only directing its staff towards these resources.
"No comment on the social side of things," Paterson said. "We're simply looking at the literacy and resources their instruction can offer.
"We're fully inclusionary here," he said.
In response to the criticism of the partnership, Ohlhauser said that it's more of an issue between the district and its teachers than it is with Crandall.
"The school district needs to be sure it understands what it's doing on behalf of its teachers," he said.
Ohlhauser also clarified that anyone, regardless of sexual orientation, can take the new courses. Pending enrolment, they're scheduled to begin in the fall.
The New Brunswick Pride in Education Committee released a statement on Thursday, expressing its disappointment and concern over the latest partnership.
The committee said in a statement that it has been working for years to help create safe, inclusive learning environments for LGBT students and staff.
"To partner, in any matter, with an institution like Crandall University, that has openly discriminatory practices and views towards the LGBTQ community is offensive and unacceptable," said Gail Costello, the co-chair of the Pride in Education Committee.
But for West, having a conversation with his daughter to explain the district's move is a conversation he dreads.
"I think when she hears about this … she's going to be very disappointed," he said.