Red Deer Catholic directive would require teachers to out students, remove Pride material: ATA

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A directive from Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools to staff would further restrict the freedom of LGTBQ+ students, said the Alberta Teachers’ Association (ATA).

ATA president Jason Schilling told Postmedia Friday a number of teachers at Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools were given a directive that would require them to out students to administrators, remove Pride materials and force teachers to only refer to students by their legal names.

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Schilling said he’s heard from teachers at Red Deer Catholic who have raised concerns about the directives that were given to them by the superintendent of schools, Kathleen Finnigan, and the school board.

“I’ve heard from my members who are in that area about how disturbed they are by these directives by the superintendent and by the board. The members that I’m talking to are exasperated, they’re exhausted and they’re embarrassed by this,” Schilling said.

Schilling said the directives are “taking a page” out of the gender policies announced by Premier Danielle Smith on Jan. 31, and says he is concerned these directives are coming before Smith’s policies are being implemented.

Alberta Teachers’ Association president Jason Schilling. Photo by David Bloom /Postmedia

A number of teachers have told the ATA that the superintendent is going from school to school giving a presentation with a list of directives. Teachers have been instructed to not take pictures of the presentation.

In the presentation, the ATA claims Finnigan is telling staff to no longer engage in conversations with students on topics surrounding preferred pronouns. Staff shouldn’t ask students what their preferred pronouns are nor should they tell students what their preferred pronouns are. There’s a “clear directive” being given to teachers, Schilling said, that they must refer to students by the name that exists on the official record of the student — no nicknames, shortened names or the use of their middle name is allowed unless parental authorization is given.

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Teachers must also report any kind of instances where a student might disclose their gender or sexual orientation to administrators who will inform parents.

Jonathan Teghtmeyer, a communications coordinator with the ATA, said in these conversations, Finnigan is often talking about the role of the archdiocese. Postmedia was told by a source the directive was apparently given by the Archdiocese of Edmonton, which also encapsulates Red Deer.

In an email to Postmedia, a spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Edmonton said such a directive would ultimately be made by the school boards, and to contact Red Deer Catholic. Postmedia reached out to Red Deer Catholic for comment and was told the request was being passed on to Finnigan, however, there was no response by press time.

Additionally, Postmedia reached out to Edmonton Catholic Schools to ask if they received similar instructions from the Archdiocese of Edmonton, but said they were unaware of any kind of directive.

By the end of the year, safe space stickers, which typically use a rainbow motif and are put up in classrooms by teachers to let students know the classroom is welcoming, must be removed. Schilling said the stickers are very benign and taking them down sends a negative message.

“I’ve heard from members that they didn’t become teachers to jeopardize the safety of their students but to help them. They want to teach students, they want to ensure their well-being and their safety,” Schilling said. “That’s our Number 1 concern and they’re worried about how policies or directives from the board like this will have a chilling effect on our schools.

“It’s a way to reduce the existence of students who come from diverse families and backgrounds and I know that we have a concern about what that could mean in terms of erasing queer culture out of schools.”

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