A Catholic school board trustee in Red Deer could face dismissal from her role after public backlash from a social media post that likened LGBTQ pride to Nazi Germany.
Monique LaGrange, a trustee of Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools, posted on social media last week a now-deleted post that featured a picture of children waving Nazi flags above a picture of children waving Pride flags.
"Brainwashing is brainwashing," her post read.
Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools issued a news release on Wednesday confirming it had held a special board meeting on Tuesday regarding LaGrange's post on Instagram.
The meeting was to discuss "the trustee code of conduct matter, related procedures, and next steps further to trustee Monique LaGrange's social media post at or around Aug. 30, 2023," the release said.
"An additional motion was also passed for the board of trustees to write to the minister of education as to the dismissal of trustee LaGrange," reads the news release from Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools.
Removed from trustees' association
Harry Salm, president of the Alberta Catholic School Trustees' Association, said in a statement that the ACSTA board voted Thursday to remove LaGrange from her position as a director of the association.
Salm said the social media post was "unbecoming of an ACSTA director" and that LaGrange's social media post "has the potential to undermine the charitable learning environment offered by Alberta's Catholic school system."
Removing a trustee from the association's board "is not a decision we take lightly," Salm said.
"Our Catholic schools love all students as gifts from God in his image, irrespective of their sexual orientation and gender expression."
Monique LaGrange's now-deleted Instagram post featured a picture of children waving Nazi flags above a picture of children waving Pride flags with the caption "Brainwashing is brainwashing." (@monique_lagrange/Instagram)
Trustee Anne Marie Watson, who had been the board chair going into Tuesday's special meeting, is no longer in the role, but no reasons were given. Trustees appointed Murray Hollman as the new board chair, with Dorraine Lonsdale as the vice-chair, effective immediately.
CBC contacted LaGrange by phone. She said she was not interested in doing an interview.
Education Minister Demetrios Nicolaides told CBC in a written statement that the board has "full authority and autonomy" to disqualify a sitting trustee.
"The board has indicated that they are seeking advice on the code of conduct and then will proceed accordingly," Nicolaides said.
"The board has assured me that they will handle this in a quick and effective manner."
Education Minister Demetrios Nicolaides condemned LaGrange's comment in a weekend social media post. (Dave Gilson/CBC)
In a weekend post on social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, Nicolaides "categorically" condemned LaGrange's comments.
"No one should have to live in fear of violence, discrimination, or exclusion," he wrote. "All students deserve to feel safe and welcome in schools across the province."
Post was 'repugnant': ATA
In its news release, the school board said the division is built on a foundation of providing "quality inclusive education, diversity, trustworthiness, and a commitment to the well-being of our students.
"Our students and staff, their education, and their safety remain our priority."
LaGrange has been facing backlash for her post, including from the Alberta Teachers' Association (ATA), which issued a statement earlier on Wednesday calling for her to resign.
"Not only does it serve to undermine the atrocities of the Nazi regime, but it also acts as a form of oppression to entice further hatred toward members of the 2SLGBTQ+ community," ATA president Jason Schilling said in a statement.
ATA president Jason Schilling said LaGrange should publicly apologize to those she may have harmed. (David Bajer/CBC)
In an interview on Wednesday, Schilling said the association has long been an advocate and ally for the LGBTQ community. He said teachers and school trustees are responsible for creating a safe space for students.
"So to see this posting by Ms. LaGrange that is repugnant, vile [and] hate-filled really undermines that safe space that we try very hard to create at schools," Schilling said.
"And if you're unwilling to do that work to create a safe space for students — for people who work in the building — then you should have no business being a trustee."
Schilling said LaGrange should acknowledge her comments and publicly apologize to those she may have harmed. Members of the ATA have voiced their concerns, he said, but have not filed any formal complaints.
The association has not spoken with LaGrange, Schilling said.
Lenny Gallant, president of the Central Alberta Pride Society, said his organization is disgusted by LaGrange's comments.
"This isn't the first elected official in central Alberta that we've had problems with in the past, so it's disheartening to see that we're still going down this path," he said, adding the comments incite hate.
"Whether that's what she meant by it or not, we take it as hate toward the community."
Gallant said the society received complaints from community members, including parents. He said members want to see diversity and inclusion training for future Catholic and public school board trustees.