Edmonton

Transgender girl's mother begs Catholic school board not to punish trustee

The mother of a transgender girl who was banned from using the female washroom at her Edmonton school is standing beside the school trustee who came to her daughter's defence, and who might now face punishment from the board.

Trustee Patricia Grell defended 7-year-old girl who was banned from female washroom

Trustee Patricia Grell defended 7-year-old girl who was banned from a washroom for girls and women and may face consequences 1:39

The mother of a transgender girl who was banned from using the female washroom at her Edmonton school is standing beside the school trustee who came to her daughter's defence, and who might now face punishment from the board. 

"She did nothing but give a little girl a voice. She is an angel, and she is the angel that we had been praying for," the girl's mother said of Edmonton Catholic School Board trustee Patricia Grell.

Last week, Grell wrote a blog post in support of the girl, 7, who was barred from using the girls' washroom by her school and instead had to be escorted by fellow students to a gender-neutral washroom.

Time and time again, she's cried to me that she wants her life to end. She doesn't understand why God would make her 'an abomination.'- Girl's mother

Grell told CBC News on Monday she is expecting to be punished by the ECSB, and believes it is making changes to limit her responsibilities.  

The mother says she expected a "long, lonely journey" in her fight over her daughter's treatment. But Grell's support, and that of others following the post, have been a huge help, she said.

"Here's a woman who stood up for what she believed in. She heard our cries, she recognized our pain … nobody should be in trouble for that," the mother said.

CBC News is not revealing the name of the girl or her mother over fears of harassment.

Girl had nightmares following ban

The mother told CBC News that the school's actions have caused her daughter considerable stress.

Access to the washroom is "a huge issue to her," the mother said. "Time and time again, she's cried to me that she wants her life to end. She doesn't understand why God would make her 'an abomination.'"

In an previous interview with CBC News, school board chair Debbie Engel would not say whether the girl was barred from the washroom, and was elusive when asked what would happen if she went in. 

The mother said it is clear what would happen — she said that teachers have scolded her daughter for using the girls' washroom and have kicked her out multiple times.

The girl told CBC News that while most of her fellow students are accepting, being banned from the girl's washroom makes her feel ostracized.

"Because I am a girl and the rest of the girls in my life go to the girls' bathroom," she said.

On Friday, after news of the ban broke, the school allowed the girl to use the female washroom, according to her mother. Although, she fears that will only continue as long as the case is in the public eye.

"She was very excited when I picked her up. She said 'I just got to be a girl,'" the mother said. 

'We can't tell you'

Grell said her future on the board remains uncertain. Shortly after she made the post, the school board chair told CTV News that she was "expecting" Grell's resignation.

Later, Engel said she was not demanding Grell step down from the board, only saying that it was common for a trustee to resign after finding themselves at odds with the board.

Grell believes she cannot be punished for the post, because the board has not made a firm decision on the issue. When she wrote the post, she said, she was not speaking on behalf of the board. 

"I thought we followed the catechism of the Catholic church … let the church inform our conscience, but in the end, it is our conscience that is the primary," Grell said.

Still, she said she is worried the rest of the board is trying to force her out. Grell said she was informed of a meeting Tuesday to make changes to the school board's structure. But when she tried to get more details about what that meant, school board staff and other trustees refused to answer.

"They said 'we can't tell you,'" Grell said.

"Everybody knows this but me, maybe it has something to do with me."

Nonetheless, Grell said she will not back away from her post and feared that both the school board and her religion were being "dragged through the mud" over the controversy.

"Catholic education is about including people, not what we're doing here."

The ECSB did not respond to calls for comment on this story. 

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