May 15, 2015 5:08 pm

Rally held in support of Edmonton Catholic school trustee

Supporters rally outside the Edmonton Catholic School district office, May 15, 2015.

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EDMONTON — Supporters of an outspoken Edmonton Catholic School Board trustee held a rally Friday afternoon at the district office.

“I’m heartened by all of you here that are willing to walk with me on that journey to help that little girl,” said trustee Patricia Grell.

“By doing this I’m teaching my children the importance of integrity and the importance of standing by what you believe in.”

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Grell spoke against a decision by the board in a personal blog post. She was upset because a seven-year-old transgender girl wasn’t allowed to use the girls’ washroom at her school. The student’s mother says the school told her daughter to use a gender-neutral washroom instead.

Debbie Engel, the board chair, addressed the issue Thursday, saying the board was misrepresented on social media.

“I’m so disappointed that we have been painted as a district who doesn’t care or who is bigoted, because we are anything but,” said Engel.

READ MORE: ‘I would never demand that’: Edmonton Catholic chair denies asking for trustee’s resignation

Because the girl’s mother has filed a human rights complaint, Edmonton Catholic won’t address its policy until a decision is made.

“There is a place for a gender-neutral washroom,” said Marni Panas, who identified herself as a Catholic trans woman. “There are many people who do not feel safe or supported or comfortable using a segregated bathroom.

“In this case, this child knows exactly who she is.”

Panas encouraged the Catholic School Board to reverse its decision and not wait for the human rights commission ruling.

“Transgender girls are girls. Period,” said Panas, as the crowd applauded.

READ MORE: Local mother accuses Edmonton Catholic School Board of discrimination 

Grell said she will likely receive a slap on the wrist for speaking out.

“I’m sure they will sanction me for this, and rightly so. I did break protocol. You are supposed to stand behind the decision of the board.

“I’m just afraid I couldn’t stand behind it, not in this case. This was too important an issue.”

The board insists it’s meeting the changing needs of every student, balancing all their needs, and providing them with a safe environment to learn.

Grell pointed out the students have been wonderful and welcoming towards this particular student, and she commended the school for bringing in experts to help the class understand the situation.

“All is well. The only thing is this bathroom thing.”

The trustee also stressed she will not be resigning from her post.

“There are other trustees who’ve been sanctioned and taken positions which were contrary to the board’s. I am absolutely not going to resign.”

Thursday, Engel denied asking for Grell’s resignation.

“I am not asking or demanding – nor do I have any authority to do so.”

© 2015 Shaw Media

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