Josh Alexander Photo from Twitter

Renfrew board upholds Josh Alexander’s suspension

  • December 21, 2023

A panel of three Renfrew County Catholic District School Board (RCCDSB) trustees rejected the appeal of Josh Alexander, the high school student suspended for alleged bullying by stating in a class discussion that God created only two genders, male and female. 

The 17-year-old will remain barred from continuing his studies at St. Joseph’s High School in Pembroke, Ont.

The Evangelical Christian has not actively attended classes since November 2022, since he made comments about biological male students using female washrooms, gender dysphoria and male breastfeeding deemed hurtful to two transgender students. He attempted to return to classes on Jan. 9 and Feb. 6. On the first date, he was levied a trespass notice and another suspension. He was arrested the second time.

At least for now, the RCCDSB has placed the panel’s official ruling under a publication ban, which means the rationale behind the group’s controversial decision to uphold the suspension is closed to the public.

James Kitchen, Alexander’s legal counsel, challenged the wisdom of the board’s decision to censor the details.

“They have sealed the entire file as if it was a case of a national security concern or some sort of criminal case where there are all kinds of sensitive stuff or gross acts the public should not have access to,” said Kitchen. “They may not be meaning to, but the school board is treating this case as if it’s that level instead of a case that is obviously of huge public interest and significance.”

Kitchen added that the order violates the democratic principle “that court proceedings are open to the public. The public has access to them. People have a right to use the fact that they have access to promote, advertise and bring scrutiny or accountability to the decision-makers. It is also a free speech and fair trial right.”

John Summers, a legal advisor for the board trustees, stated in an email that the Renfrew board was justified in its decision to seal because there are “statutory obligations to protect the privacy of students and student information.”

“This matter is covered by the privacy protections and prohibitions contained in both the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act and in the Education Act, as well as board policies that these proceedings are not open to the public, which would also cover the decision,” said Summers.

Email exchanges between Kitchen and Summers were published by the former. Kitchen wrote, “The decision contains nothing that implicates the privacy of anyone preciously because the panel directed at paragraph 10 of the decision that all references to individuals would be arbitrarily initialized.”

The Catholic Register asked Summers to provide his take on Kitchen’s argument. Summers' response: “Mr. Kitchen communicated his views. The legislation is clear as to the protections and prohibitions regarding student privacy.”

Kitchen emphasized that he and Alexander agreed with the RCCDSB throughout this whole process that minors involved in this case must have their identities protected. He argued that since there are no identity-compromising details within the decision, citing privacy to keep this document from publication is “disingenuous.”

“Of course, this begs the question, ‘Who’s privacy interests or identity are they trying to protect?’ Obviously, the adults in this situation.”

Though forbidden from sharing specific material from the decision, Kitchen was allowed to explain generally why the panel ruled against his client. He said the panel agreed with former St. Joseph’s principal Derek Lennox — now the board’s Superintendent of Educational Services — that Alexander was a bully and discriminatory to transgender students for sharing his opinions about transgender washroom use.

“I get that maybe the boys who identify as girls find (his comments) insulting,” said Kitchen. “I can make sense of that, but that doesn’t change the fact that Josh should be entitled to his opinion that it is perverted. That is a reasonable opinion. That certainly is exactly what the Christian faith believes.”

Alexander has publicly touted Mark 10:6, “God made them male and female.”

Kitchen also argued with the board’s assertion that “this case is not about Josh’s religious beliefs or freedom of expression” when he said the evidence points to the contrary.

“This is pretty wild because it basically tells everyone who could read this decision to deny their eyes and ears,” said Kitchen. “Any person who is honest and is using critical thinking would say, ‘obviously it is about his religious beliefs, and obviously it is about what he said.’ ” 

Alexander, Kitchen and Liberty Coalition Canada, the Christian advocacy group financially backing this case through a crowd-funding campaign, will further review the decision and decide how they will respond. 

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