Ontario Student Suspended Amid Objections to Transgender Students in Girls’ Washroom

Ontario Student Suspended Amid Objections to Transgender Students in Girls’ Washroom
Josh Alexander, a Grade 11 student at St. Joseph's High School in Renfew, Ont. (Yan Parisien)
Tara MacIsaac

A student at St. Joseph’s High School in Renfrew, Ontario, has been suspended for a month for his interactions with transgender students at his school.

Josh Alexander, 16, organized a protest in November against the use of female washrooms by transgender students. Before that, he had engaged in a heated classroom conversation in which he insisted there are only two genders.

“Multiple students, including trans students were kind of shouting me down,” he told The Epoch Times.

He said the school told him he “may have violated the Safe Schools policy” for this and similar incidents. The Safe Schools Act outlines how Ontario schools should regulate student behaviour, including in which cases to suspend or expel. Alexander thinks the school is considering expelling him.

The school’s principal and vice principal did not reply to inquiry by The Epoch Times by time of publication. Mark Searson, director of education for the Renfrew County Catholic District School Board, told The Epoch Times he cannot discuss specific students with the press.

Searson said the board tries to take the “pastoral approach” with transgender students. That means these students are engaged in many conversations, he said, including with the principals and chaplains.

“There’s so much polarization in the world and in our community right now, in particular over this issue,“ Searson said. ”We want to do everything we can to bring everyone back together and ensure we can have some dialogue.”

Alexander said “I do have a little bit of sympathy” for the transgender students. “I don’t think it’s fair that they are growing up with parents who encourage this behaviour.” He maintains the schools have encouraged gender dysphoria. At St. Joseph’s, he said, he has heard two teachers speak in favour of male breastfeeding.

“Some of the class discussions we had were completely inappropriate,” he said. “I would actually be rebuked for calling them out on it.”

Alexander faced both community support and backlash when he led a student walkout and protest on Nov. 25 on the issue of the school’s washrooms.

Girl Concerned About ‘Privacy and Safety’

A female Grade 11 student at St. Joseph’s spoke to The Epoch Times about her discomfort having a transgender student in the girls’ washroom. The Epoch Times has chosen not to publish her name.

She said she saw a transgender student enter the girls’ washroom this year for the first time, after two previous years at the school.

“I was just in that bathroom, in my bathroom, and then a transgender male walked in after me,” she said. “That kind of really caught me off guard, because I didn’t even really know at that point that he self-identified as female.”

She wasn’t going to say anything about it, but she noticed her other friends commenting “that it’s pretty weird,” she said. “It’s for my own privacy and safety that I felt like I had to say something at that point.”

She told Alexander about it, and also went to her principal. The principal was “very polite about it,” she said. “He said he appreciated me for coming forward and it’s important for him to hear both sides of the story and all that, but I didn’t really get the sense that he was going to actually do anything about it.”

The school board’s Searson said he was unaware of any complaints having come in about the washrooms. He said he did hear about one case of a transgender student allegedly being bullied for using the washrooms, but that is the only washroom-related complaint.

“The Ontario Human Rights Code has made it very explicit that individuals do have the right to utilize the restricted washroom of their lived gender identity,” Searson said. Usually, transgender students use the universal washrooms, he said.

St. Joseph’s, along with other schools in the same board, has a few universal one-person washrooms in addition to the gendered washrooms. But sometimes, Searson said, “they really want to utilize the segregated washroom of their lived gender, and that’s their right to do that.”

Walkout, Protest

Alexander had previous experience with protests and walkouts as a member of Save Canada when he led student action in support of the Freedom Convoy. Save Canada describes itself as “a volunteer organization with the mission to create the most prosperous and free Canada.”

He was suspended for these actions a few times at his previous school, he said. He was in the public school board before and transferred this year to the Catholic board. He describes himself as a “born-again Christian.”

Several students participated in the walkout, though the protest swelled with adult attendance. A counterprotest was also set up across the street.

Both the students who attended the protest and those who attended the counterprotest were considered to have skipped school that day. They were not allowed to use the school’s transportation for the day, according to board policy for unexcused absences, Searson said.

The Arnprior Pride Facebook group rallied people for the counterprotest. A parent organizing the counterprotest through the group wrote, “Friends, our trans and non-binary friends need your help.“ The parent said the protest was going to be ”against trans youth.”

“I am heartbroken and exhausted,” the parent continued. “After being in a meeting with the school staff yesterday, I decided to pull my child because they have no way to ensure her safety.”

The Epoch Times reached out to Arnprior Pride for further comment on the situation at St. Joseph’s, but did not receive a reply by time of publication.

Alexander says the characterization of Save Canada, of himself, and of the protest by those opposed to it was wrong. “It wasn’t necessarily an anti-trans rally. It was more so just we wanted gender-restricted washrooms,” he said.

In a video recording of the protest, Alexander is shown speaking to the crowd. “This rally is not about hate. … This rally is about keeping males out of female washrooms. … Female students have complained about this. The school refuses to take action,” he said.

“The focus on gender dysphoria should not be allowed in our school system. … It should not be pushed on them. … It is something a child should grow and develop and learn about as they’re older and they have the right to do so.”