Saskatchewan

Emails show range of reaction after Regina school board Pride vote, trustee's 'drag queens' comment

Emails obtained through an access to information request show both support for and backlash against the Regina Public School Board trustee whose Facebook post about drag queens in schools sparked controversy. 

Reaction in 6 emails obtained by CBC News ranges from calls for resignation to support for defeating motion

An access to information request filed by CBC News sheds some light on the public's opinion of a controversial comment made by a Regina Public School Board trustee. (Emily Pasiuk/CBC)

A half dozen emails obtained by CBC News show a range of reactions to comments from the Regina Public School Board's chair following a contentious vote on LGBT Pride celebrations — ranging from a call for the chair to resign to support for the board's decision to reject the motion.

The emails were obtained by CBC News through an access to information request filed at the end of October 2019, following the board's vote on the motion at a packed Oct. 15 public meeting.

The motion, which was defeated 4-3 during an emotional school board meeting, would have enshrined the right of schools to celebrate LGBT Pride as they see fit.

The result, however, doesn't change what public schools have done up to this point, which is decide individually how to celebrate Pride at their school.

In a Facebook post following that meeting, board chair Katherine Gagne wrote that "We can't have one school thinking a drag queen story time to kindergarten students is acceptable or a teacher telling a grade 3 student that they don't need to choose their gender yet is acceptable."

Regina Public School Board chair Katherine Gagne defended the board of trustees and the Oct. 15 vote on LGBT Pride events in a Facebook post the day after the vote. Gagne's comments about gender and drag queens were spurred by concerned parents, she said. (Facebook)

Gagne later defended her comments and said they were spurred by concerned parents.

In its access to information request, CBC News asked the Regina Public School Board for correspondence between the public and trustees or senior executive staff that contained the words "drag queens."

The request yielded six emails. Sender's names and email addresses were withheld, as per guidelines in the provincial Local Authority Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

Three emails in the package expressed support for the motion; one of those, sent directly to Gagne, asked her to resign for the comment. 

"I am e-mailing to state my disappointment and disgust with your public comments regarding LGBTQ persons and Pride celebrations," the email said. "It is clear to me that you are unable to keep your personal bias from this discussion." 

The writer of another email, sent directly to school board trustee Aleana Young — who originally proposed the motion — said they were in favour of the motion and they are "all for recognizing Pride Week." 

Another email sent to the school board decried Gagne's comments on Facebook.

"I almost never write emails like this but I feel it is important to voice my significant and disgusted objection to Katherine Gagne's facebook post surrounding the unfortunate defeat of the Pride motion," the email said. 

That writer argued Gagne's comments hurt the community by spreading misconceptions that Pride celebrations are "hyper-sexualized events" that would be "forced on children of all ages." The sender wrote those points are "uneducated, ignorant and objectively offensive." 

That email also argued the defeat of the motion and the mockery of those who supported it meant that students whose gender identity is not binary would not feel safe.

Writer alleges 'indoctrination'

But one email CBC News obtained, which was sent prior to the Oct. 15 meeting, encouraged trustees to reject the proposed motion. 

"I believe the goal of the Public School Board is to provide EDUCATIONAL opportunities to our children, NOT to allow INDOCTRINATION into the LGBTQ agenda," the email stated.

That email pointed to an episode of the PBS animated series Arthur that revealed a character was gay and story-reading sessions by drag queens, which have been held at libraries across the country, as examples of how the writer believes an "LGBTQ agenda" is being pushed on children.

As per the Local Authority Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, Regina Public School Board was required to request the third party's consent before releasing the emails to CBC News.

Two records were exempt from the access to information request filed by CBC News, as they included "personal views or opinions" of third parties who had not consented to the release of their records.

One of the emails, sent by a communications employee for the school board, invited various staff members to attend a gender and sexual diversity event in Moose Jaw featuring drag performers. 

Another email was a transcript of an interview with Gagne that aired on CBC Radio's The Morning Edition.

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