Saskatchewan

Online petition calls for removal of Regina Public Schools board chair

Frustration continues to mount after the Regina Public School Board recently voted against board trustee Aleana Young's motion that would have ensured schools are allowed to choose how to celebrate Pride Month in June.

Petition follows defeated motion on Pride celebrations at Regina schools

At an Oct. 15 meeting, the Regina Public Schools board defeated motion that would have ensured schools are allowed to choose how to celebrate LGBTQ Pride events. (Emily Pasiuk/CBC)

An online petition is calling for the removal of chair Katherine Gagne from the Regina Public Schools board, following frustration over a defeated motion that would have ensured schools are allowed to choose how to celebrate LGBTQ Pride events.

The board defeated trustee Aleana Young's motion in a 4-3 vote on Oct. 15.

The petition on the website change.org, created by Regina resident Eric Bell, had over 4,300 signatures as of Thursday afternoon. The goal on the page was 5,000 signatures.

"Elected school board trustees, especially when they serve as Board Chair, should promote a culture of inclusion and acceptance, and do everything they can to promote and celebrate the lives of LGBTQ2S+ students," the petition reads.

The petition notes that Gagne voted against the motion, as cites comments she made online as reasons for calling for her removal.

In a Facebook comment posted on Oct. 16, Gagne defended the board's decision from the night before and said an "every [school] for themselves approach" to Pride celebrations was "irresponsible."

Chair Katherine Gagne defended the board of trustees in Facebook comments following the vote. (Facebook)

"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," she said in the comment.

Gagne 'failed to show leadership': Bell

In an interview on Tuesday, Bell said the board's decision was hurtful to the LGBTQ community within its schools.

"They sent a message that queer students and staff don't matter," said Bell. "[Gagne] really failed to show leadership on this important motion."

She needs to be held accountable as chair.- Eric Bell

Bell said he's received messages from teachers saying they felt "embarrassed" by the defeat of the motion. He believes its failure has done more damage than Gagne and the other trustees realize.

"She needs to be held accountable for her actions as chair," he said. "As it's shown I think over 3,000 people said that they agree with that."

Neither Gagne, nor Young, returned requests for comment.

A screenshot of the petition to remove Katherine Gagne as the chair of the Regina Public Schools board. As of Thursday afternoon, the petition had more than 4,000 signatures. (Change.org)

CBC News reached out to the other board trustees, but they either deferred comment to Gagne or didn't return requests for an interview.

In a message sent to all staff at Regina Public Schools the day after the vote, the board's director of education, Greg Enion, said the vote "does NOT mean that Regina Public Schools, the division, or individual schools must stop celebrating pride."

Enion said in that note the board would send the issue to subcommittees and administration, in an effort to "create some clarity and some more definite direction" around how events such as Pride are celebrated in the division.

Order needed to oust board member 

Both Regina Public Schools and the Saskatchewan School Boards Association declined to comment on what would happen if the petition was presented to the board. A statement from the Ministry of Education would only say that any regulations related to the removal of a trustee are in the hands of the school board.

Neither the Education Act nor the province's School Division Administration Regulations explain what would happen in the event a petition was presented, but say five or more electors in a school division can apply to a Court of Queen's Bench judge for an order to start the process of having a trustee removed.

Bell said he's not optimistic that, even if the petition is presented, Gagne will step down, but says the school board election next fall could ultimately decide her fate.

"There's a lot of motivated people who are going to be organizing ... to work to defeat Katherine and the others on the board who didn't support this motion."

About the Author

Ethan Williams

Journalist

Ethan Williams is a journalist with CBC Saskatchewan. Get in touch with him: ethan.williams@cbc.ca

With files from Creeden Martell and Emily Pasiuk

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