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Trustee apologizes for controversial comment
Julia Parrish, CTV Edmonton
Published Thursday, November 22, 2012 1:28PM MST
Last Updated Thursday, November 22, 2012 6:54PM MST
A trustee from a northern Alberta school division has apologized, after a comment he made sparked controversy.
Earlier this week at the Alberta School Boards Association (ASBA) fall meeting, trustee Dale Schaffrick with the Pembina Hills Regional School Division said homosexual, bisexual and transgendered students might avoid discrimination of they tried to act or dress “less identifiable”.
On Thursday, in a phone interview with CTV News, Schaffrick publicly apologized for the comments.
“They were inappropriate and they were offensive, and I apologize for that,” Schaffrick said. “I was speaking as an individual trustee, and my board had no idea what I was going up there to say, so I take full responsibility for that.”
“It’s my own fault, the way I said it,” Schaffrick continued. “It was very easy to take a different meaning, so I accept full responsibility.”
“The debate was centered around what was good for kids, and the protection of kids,” ASBA President Jacquie Hansen said. “Those remarks were really inappropriate and really took away the focus from what we were talking about.”
Aside from the comment, members at the ASBA meeting, defeated a motion that would have added inclusive language to an anti-bullying policy, geared towards protecting students and staff that are part of sexual minorities.
The comment and the defeated motion prompted a response from Edmonton gay activist and former police commissioner Murray Billett, who wrote a letter to Schaffrick and his colleagues.
“I can tell you that comment is homophobic,” Billett said Thursday. “To suggest that one minority group should act, dress or behave in a different way so they don’t get bullied.
“It’s their job to prevent bullying.”
In his letter, Billett called on the association to “move into 2012”, and that the ASBA failed their students, their families and the province.
The ASBA president said she believed the motion was defeated because some members may have seen it as too focused on one group.
“I think it was defeated because there are lots of members who feel we would perhaps be better served with an overarching policy, rather than having one specific to vulnerable groups,” Hansen said.
Billett said the association should revisit the motion, and pass it – he also offered to provide diversity training to board members.
Hansen told CTV News the association will address professionalism, and the code of conduct.
With files from Dez Melenka