Some teachers initially included in a new provincial registry say the government's publication of all their legal names could lead to discrimination, harassment and safety issues.
When the government's new teacher registry went live last week, Calgary teacher, consultant and PhD student Jamie Anderson found an unwelcome surprise — his birth name, listed underneath his legal name.
Anderson is trans. His former name is a legal identity he no longer uses.
"Being outed and people having access to that information can have, sometimes, dire consequences," said Anderson, who is researching the experiences of trans teachers at the University of Calgary.
CBC News has identified multiple instances of former names listed for trans teachers.
Anderson's worry is that anyone can use the registry to look up any Alberta teacher certified since 1954 and see a name that doesn't match their gender identity.
It could prompt parents to demand their children be removed from their classrooms, Anderson said. Employers could pass over a teacher for a job, or even fire them, he added.
He contacted Alberta Education's registrar to ask the name be removed. He said the registrar has temporarily removed him from the registry while they process his exemption application — but he has no guarantee the name is gone permanently.
He's talking to lawyers about whether there are potential grounds for a human rights complaint.
Registry intended to improve transparency and safety
The new registry went live on Sept. 1 after the legislature passed a bill in 2021 enabling its creation. The government says it's one of several changes that will increase the transparency of teacher discipline and improve student safety.
About 162,000 current and former teachers are listed, including information on whether their certificate is active, and, in some cases, links to any disciplinary decisions if their certificate has been suspended or revoked.
The government's website says the registry includes all legal names known to the registrar. Teachers or their families can apply to exclude a previous legal name from the registry "if it may cause personal injury or hardship," it says.
The new legislation requires the registry to include all of the teachers' legal names. Although that information was not in letters the government sent to some teachers in June, it was included in a fact sheet online.
Critics say including past legal names could also put domestic abuse survivors at risk, along with other people who changed their names for safety reasons.
Lethbridge kindergarten teacher Laurie McIntosh said she was livid when she checked the registry last week and found a name included from a marriage that ended 20 years ago.
"It certainly was a traumatic time, and seeing that name written in a place that was never associated with me as a teacher, was certainly retraumatizing," McIntosh said.
After she posted about her frustration on social media, her former name disappeared from the registry, McIntosh said.
Someone from the registrar's office told her she'd have to apply for an exemption to make the removal permanent.
Minister says teachers knew registry was coming
A spokesperson for Education Minister Adriana LaGrange was unable to answer questions by publication time, and referred instead to Friday tweets from LaGrange addressing some concerns.
In it, LaGrange says the government informed current and former teachers the registry was coming and explained how to apply for an exemption.
The letters to teachers said exemptions would be granted in rare circumstances where legally required or when a person's safety is jeopardized.
Of the three other provinces that have public teachers' registries, only Ontario's includes past legal names. A spokesperson for the Ontario Teachers' College said teachers can request past names be removed from the database in extenuating circumstances, including gender identity.
McIntosh says the province should consider pulling the registry offline, or temporarily masking some of the information, until it can deal with the concerns teachers have raised.
"I just can't understand why, how this came about," McIntosh said. "It's not keeping anyone safe. If anything, it's putting more people in harm – especially teachers."