Update: Edmonton transgender student allowed to use washroom of her choice

Quoted verbatim from the Edmonton Journal.

 A young Catholic transgender student will be allowed to use the washroom of her choice and outspoken trustee Patricia Grell was not disciplined for speaking up in support of the child at a trustee board meeting Tuesday.

But Grell worried she could still be in trouble.

“I don’t think I’m out of the woods. There may be some repercussions on this coming,” she said, meeting with supporters outside the Edmonton Catholic school board offices. “We’re going to deal with me at a later date.”

The recent controversy blew up after a seven-year-old Grade 2 student diagnosed with gender dysphoria was told to use a gender neutral washroom. The child was born as a boy but identifies as a girl and medical advice says transitioning to live fully as a girl is better for her mental health.

The girl’s family filed a complaint with the Alberta Human Rights Commission. The board of trustees discussed the issue, then decided to wait until the commission ruled before acting, even though that could take years.

When Grell objected, both on her blog and in media comments, board chair Debbie Engel suggested she should resign for speaking against a board decision.

But on Monday, trustees postponed the special in-camera meeting they called to discuss Grell’s actions.

“The mover of the intended motion advised that she wished to withdraw that single item, and as a result, the board determined that it was not necessary to proceed with today’s meeting,” said Engel in a news release.

“The agenda item was to discuss the public nature of board business and may be addressed at a future date.”

Grell said she hopes that discussion will lead to a resolution freeing trustees to speak their minds as their conscience dictates. “We need to start talking about freedom of speech,” she said, adding that trustees seem to be the only elected officials not allowed to speak against a board motion.

She hopes that policy can be changed provincewide at the annual trustee meeting this fall.

“It’s time we become good governors that speak for the people,” she added. “Why should it be that trustees should have to toe the board line?”

At a board meeting earlier in the day, the board voted to let the school decide how best to handle the Grade 2 student’s predicament. The principal of the school gave the girl’s mother a call Monday afternoon to tell her the child can use any washroom she wants.

The board will consult with the Archdioceses of Edmonton, medical specialists, parents and educational experts to write a policy for these situations later.

“This child got to pee in the right bathroom and that to me is a victory,” said Marni Panas, a transgender woman who organized a small rally to support Grell and the mother Monday.

“The hardest part in this world is to be accepted as you truly are,” said Panas.

The child’s mother was also at the rally. She said her family will continue with the human rights complaint until she is assured in writing that the girl will not have to deal with this issue again while she is in the Catholic school system.


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