Gender Beliefs Get Ontario Catholic Student Shut Out of School for the Year

Gender Beliefs Get Ontario Catholic Student Shut Out of School for the Year
Josh Alexander, a grade-11 student at St. Joseph's High School in Renfew, Ont. (Yan Parisien)
Tara MacIsaac

Josh Alexander, 16, is not allowed to attend school for the rest of the year after saying he would continue to express his belief that God created only two genders. The school told him his presence would be “detrimental to the physical and mental well-being” of transgender students, Alexander told The Epoch Times.

He told St. Joseph’s Catholic High School in Renfrew, Ontario, he would not intentionally engage or start conflicts with transgender students, but he would continue to express his belief. He and his lawyer are bringing this matter to an Ontario human rights tribunal, calling it religious discrimination.

“Offence is obviously defined by the offended. I expressed my religious beliefs in class and it spiraled out of control,” Alexander said. “Not everybody’s going to like that. That doesn’t make me a bully. It doesn’t mean I’m harassing anybody. They express their beliefs and I express mine. Mine obviously don’t fit the narrative.”

He hasn’t attended school since November, when he was first suspended. He had organized a protest against transgender students using the girls’ washrooms. He had also said in class discussions that there are only two, immutable genders.

When his suspension was lifted the beginning of January, he was instead “excluded” by the principal, which has the same effect as suspension but is considered non-disciplinary. He was told this week that he will be excluded for the rest of the school year, and he’s not sure if that will end up extending into the next school year as well.

The principal, Derek Lennox, told The Epoch Times he cannot comment on the situation.

Alexander’s lawyer, James Kitchen, told The Epoch Times the school has characterized Alexander’s actions as “bullying.”

“Obviously, he doesn’t actually bully them as that term would be defined by ... reasonable people. He’s not going to seek them out and call them names and make fun of them,” Kitchen said. “But he does express his views about what these people say and about what they believe and about what they’re doing. And he expresses them online, and he expresses them in the class.”

Sophie Smith-Doré, co-founder of Arnprior Pride and mother of one of the transgender students at the school, told The Epoch Times in a written message in January, “Trans folks and their loved ones (like most marginalized folks) are constantly doing this emotional work and it’s exhausting. We bear the burden of trying to protect our gender-diverse kids.”

She declined to speak in detail about her or her child’s experience.

Mark Searson, director of education for the Renfrew County Catholic District School Board, told The Epoch Times in December that the board takes a “pastoral approach” with transgender students, engaging them in conversations and trying to bring people together without conflict.

He said at the time, and also on Wednesday, that he cannot comment further. He is not able to discuss specific students with the press.

In addition to taking this matter to a provincial human rights tribunal—Kitchen said they will file that complaint this month—Alexander has moved to appeal his original suspension. That would bring the suspension before a school board panel to decide if it was warranted.

The appeal is being held up, however, over the issue of parental independence. Alexander has withdrawn from parental control for the purposes of the appeal—a legal designation allowed to students 16 and older under certain circumstances.

The school contests this, saying Alexander still lives with his parents and does not meet the definition of this designation.

Kitchen said: “He does live with his parents and they have an excellent relationship. He seeks guidance from them and they gladly give it to him. But he runs his own life. And that’s actually by design, because that’s how his parents raised him to be.”

Kitchen and Alexander have requested a public hearing broadcast via videoconferencing.