Regina Public Schools Need Pride: Where Do We Go From Here?

On Tuesday, October 15, 2019, I attended the Regina Public School Board meeting of the Trustees. Last week, I received notice that the Board would be discussing a motion put forward by a trustee that would recognize and support the celebration of Pride by Regina Public Schools. Here is the exact wording of the action requested:

BE IT RESOLVED that Regina Public Schools recognize and support the
celebration of Pride and fly the rainbow flag at our facilities each June.

Aleana Young’s Motion to the Regina Public School Board

So why does this matter to me?

Let’s be honest. I can’t pass for a teenager and I’m very open about being in university, so I am clearly no longer in high school. So why do I care what the school board decides to do?

When I was in Grade 12, I was forced to move schools when the Regina Public School Board shut down Robert Usher Collegiate, the high school I had attended for the previous 3 years. Usher was a close knit school with many supports, including a GSA (Gay Straight Alliance), which I was a part of.

My new school did not have a GSA and the previous year, the school’s administration refused to allow a student to start one. I knew going on that I would have a fight on my hands, but the teacher with the Usher GSA gave me the tools to start the process. It was terrifying to have to request this group, knowing it had been denied previously, but eventually, I worked up the courage.

I had to approach the school’s administrator’s several times because they did not initially respond. However, their silence on the matter only made me realize how important it was to have a GSA in the first place. So I settled in for a fight. The administration only needed to be reminded once that our school had all sorts of clubs already and that to deny this one would be discrimination. And I got my GSA.

This taught me something invaluable.

Administrations rarely offer up an inch. You have to fight for every single movement forward. Administrations don’t move forward on their own. They have to be pushed and prodded to do the right thing.

The Regina Public School Board’s decision to defeat the motion to support Pride proves exactly this point. Even with an audience filled of rainbows and LGBTQ* advocates, 4 of the 7 board members complained about process and wording, stating this as the reason they would be voting ‘No’ on the motion. Only one of the 4 spoke to the importance of supporting LGBTQ* students and staff, but also decided that process and wording trumped that. This was Jay Kasperski, who is the trustee for my subdivision, so, of course, I reached out to him.

Here is a post I made on Facebook about this decision, where I included a copy of what I sent to Jay in response to his ‘No’ vote.

Yesterday, he responded to me. He included a full copy of his comments from Tuesday night, as well as discussing why he did not make an amendment.

While I disagree with the way that he voted, I do feel that he is sincere in his support. I will be contacting him on a regular basis in the future to ensure that this subcommittee is making progress and that something will be coming back before the board.

However, some of the failure of this process also belongs to him (and the other 3 trustees who voted ‘No’). In June, Aleana Young advised the board that this motion would be coming up. They had 4 months to ask questions, request clarification or amendments.

Yet, they did not.

Instead, they came to the meeting and complained about process and not enough time/warning. Dr. Jane Ekong actually said that they didn’t have 4 months because they don’t work during the summer. I’m not sure why she believes that not working means that time stops, but even so, they have been back since August 27, 2019, at the latest, as they had a board meeting that day. And they have had 2 meetings since then, not including the October 15, 2019 meeting.

This means that all of these board members have been in a room together 3 times since the June meeting. I checked the minutes for these meetings and all 7 trustees were in attendance for each of these 3 meetings. So even with the feeble excuse of not working over the summer, that still leaves at least two months (and three meetings in the same room) where they could have discussed their concerns with Aleana Young.

Yet, they did not.

One of my Facebook friends shared my Facebook post mentioned above with Tanya Foster and Katherine Gagne as they are FB friends. Both of these women are trustees who voted ‘No’. My friend asked both women to read my post and reconsider what they voted for. They sent me a screenshot of the message they sent to Trustee Foster and Gagne, which I have provided in a cropped form for privacy reasons.

Instead of any type of professional, or even an adult, response, Trustee Foster blocked them. She also deleted them as a Facebook friend. All because they asked her to read my post.

Trustee Gagne has a more reasonable response to my friend’s request to read my post. She replied “That is exactly what I plan to do. Thank you for reaching out.” While polite, her response does not seem to relate to anything specifically in the message. She plans to read my post? She plans to reconsider her vote? She plans to think about the people she can help out? It is not clear, but at least it was respectful.

This is where things go downhill for Trustee Gagne in this post.

Check out this tweet about the following directive which was apparently sent to members of the church that Trustee Gagne belongs to. While it is not clear who actually received it, it has been verified as sent:

Trustee Gagne states that she did not know about this email or any campaign to send emails. I am inclined to believe that she didn’t know this email was sent. I am even inclined to believe that she didn’t know that this campaign was happening. She likely mentioned it to someone in her church, who took up the cause on their own. I’m giving her the benefit of the doubt, even though she did not declare any conflict on interest in relation to this motion (which Trustee Young did).

My biggest issue with her is what happened once this email was investigated. In a CBC article referencing this incident, she discusses Aleana Young’s tweet that advised people of the upcoming vote and Gagne stated “How is that different? I think we need to ask ourselves that question why is one okay and one not.”

There is a HUGE difference between ” I encourage you to contact your trustee and ask their views and share yours” and the email request in the photos above. One relies on deceit and specifically asks people to call for a ‘No’ vote, while the other encourages discussion with trustees.

If she can’t see the difference between those two things, I’m not sure if she has any place sitting as the chairperson on the Regina Public School Board. In fact, there is a petition to have her removed from that position based on her conduct. It has almost 1000 signatures the last time I checked.

So what can we do?

This fight is far from over. Despite any misconceptions, the LGBTQ* community is aware that this is happening now and we are going to fight to ensure that this motion does not die in committee.

However, we cannot do it alone.

We need the help of people throughout the community.

Here are some ways that Regina citizens can help:
  • Email your trustee to thank them for their support if they voted ‘Yes’
  • Email your trustee to ask for explanations if they voted ‘No’
  • Run for a trustee position when the term comes up
    • The next Regina Public School Board election is Monday, November 9, 2020.
    • Information regarding that election can be found here, though more will be posted closer to that date.
  • If you don’t want to run, vote for progressive candidates at election time.
    • The next Regina Public School Board election is Monday, November 9, 2020.
    • For the previous term:
      • Dr. Jane Ekong and Jay Kasperski were both elected by acclamation, which means that no one ran against them;
      • Tanya Foster and Adam Hicks were elected for the first time;
      • Aleana Young, Cindy Anderson, and Katherine Gagne were re-elected.
  • Attend every school board meeting that you are able to, even if this is not on the agenda. Wear rainbow gear. Let our presence be known.
    • The next three meetings are:
      • November 5, 2019
      • November 26, 2019
      • December 17, 2019
    • The full schedule of meetings is available here with links to agendas and minutes at the bottom of the page.
      • Please note that all meetings commence at 5:30 p.m. and are to be held at the Regina Public School Board Office, 1600 4th Avenue, Regina, unless otherwise scheduled by resolution.
  • If you have a presentation that you would like to make to the Board, there is information here on requesting to present.
  • Contact your trustee every week, starting October 21, 2019, to request an update on what is happening in the aftermath of this motion.
    • Below is a PDF of what I will be sending based on my previous correspondence with Jay Kasperski.
    • Feel free to model your email after mine, with the focus on getting an update.
    • Each week on Facebook, I will share (publicly) what I have sent to Trustee Kasperski based on his responses.
Here’s some ways that you can help from anywhere in Saskatchewan:
  • Sign the petition to remove Katherine Gagne as Board Chair for her vote, and for her insensitive comments about the LGBTQ2S+ community
  • Sign the Saskatchewan NDP’s petition to support GSAs in Saskatchewan schools
  • Make a contribution to help Gender and Sexuality Alliances (GSAs) in public schools celebrate Pride and related events through this GoFundMe campaign
  • If you want, you can email all the trustees to explain why this is important to you. They will likely not respond to you as you are not a part of their subdivision, but that is okay. We just want them to know that people all over Saskatchewan are aware of what is happening.
    • Please ensure you mention that you are not from Regina, so they are aware that your only intention is providing information.
Some tips for emailing the trustees:
  • Please be respectful, no matter how upset you are. All people deserve respect and that includes the trustees who voted ‘No’. Our values shouldn’t go out the window because of this. It is still early in this fight and we should take the high road, especially since they are under no such obligation.
    • Sending threats or hate will only serve to change the conversation. We want this conversation focused on the trustees and what they should be doing, not on how we are responding in disrespectful ways.
  • Assume that anything you send will be shared. If you don’t want your spouse, my parents, your kids, your boss, etc., to see it, don’t send it. I mean, this is a pretty standard social media instruction, but it is worth specifying, considering the situation.
  • If you are a Regina resident, include your mailing address in your email signature. This shows the trustee that you are a part of their subdivision, which means you have the opportunity to vote on them remaining in that position for the next term. It makes them more likely to take your email seriously and respond to it.
  • Focus on quality, not quantity. I wanted to email Trustee Kasperski every day since he voted ‘No,’ but all of my initial attempts were filled with anger and low on substance. So I waited until Thursday to send my initial email after taking a lot of deep breaths. Waiting to send my own respectful response warranted me the same treatment with information I can use to contact Trustee Kasperski in the future.
  • That being said, email your trustee a lot. Almost all the trustees (Gagne excluded, as she did not offer any explanation before her vote) mentioned that they have received the most correspondence on this motion over anything else as trustees. That is important.
    • Leave at least a week between emails, but make sure that they know you are still invested, that you are still watching and waiting for this to be corrected.
  • Do not let this issue die.

Please do not let this issue die!

Keep fighting!


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