The division leaders of Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools have gone viral in their latest attempt to shield students from the real world. After an email from a GSCS superintendent of education to principals was shared and went viral, the public finally became aware of the pattern of inequality that plagues the division. Unfortunately, the latest GSCS scandal isn’t the exception to the rule, but the norm.
From June 1-4, Saskatoon plays host to the Nutrien Children’s Festival of Saskatchewan. The gathering is a yearly tradition where many teachers plan a field trip for their students. After a division-wide email was sent to principals asking them to “inform students that the Rainbow Tent should not be part of their visit,” GSCS is now all over the news for its failure to promote equality in their schools.
GSCS scandal unveils a common pattern of behaviour
The disappointment of the division hits extra close to home. Not only is this the hometown where I was a teacher for 5 years, but it’s also my former employer. When I was teaching there, bigotry against the LGBTQ+ community was an incredibly common theme. While it’s usually subtle and not as outright as their email, by consistently adhering to a few loud, bigoted parents, they have alienated their body of students.
In my final year before resigning, I was told by superiors within the division that my teaching methods were too “pro-gay” and that I shouldn’t be “promoting the gay agenda” in a Catholic school. Additionally, it was brought up to me that I shouldn’t talk about my mental health in the classroom as it’s inappropriate for the students to know that their teacher has been diagnosed with depression and ADHD. While these two things don’t have much in common on the surface, they both represent the root cause of a very complex problem.
The division leadership within GSCS consistently cater to a very small group of very loud parents that occupy much of their time. If these loud parents don’t want something discussed in class, they go directly to principals and superintendents—as opposed to the teachers.
Instead of immediately shutting down this (obviously) inefficient method of communication, it’s frequently rewarded by adding restrictions to teachers to appease the complaints. It’s simply more important to the higher-ups within the division at this point to facilitate the needs of those constantly emailing and causing them problems, than it is to properly support their students and teachers.
I brought this up to a former superintendent within the division before I resigned. Unfortunately, my concerns weren’t heard and my plea to put the students first was denied. Not denied outright while admitting their faults, but turned down in a similar fashion to their “apology” email— deflecting the blame elsewhere while attempting to build themselves up in the public eye.
GSCS is failing, but it’s more complicated than you think
Let’s make one thing very, very clear. This doesn’t fall on the many incredible teachers within the division. I know firsthand how hard the GSCS leadership—who don’t spend their days in the schools, but in their offices responding to emails—work to deny their equality efforts. There are so many amazing educators within the division who are underpaid and overworked that carry the well-being of the students on their backs. This one falls on the leadership.
While GSCS is deservedly getting pushback for their faults, I actually understand their predicament as well. Saskatchewan is a province where the current government has ineptly defunded the education system over the past several years. These people, much like the classroom teachers, educational assistants, and administrators, are absolutely exhausted.
Yes, teachers are underpaid. That isn’t close to the biggest issue in the government’s education budget. Each year, schools have fewer resources for their classrooms as educators are forced to cut corners and make the best of a terrible situation.
Although I’m empathetic to their struggles, the behaviours of the superintendents, divisional leadership, and Director of Education are unacceptable. Their lack of willingness to allow students to visit a rainbow tent at a children’s festival is only the tip of the iceberg. From disallowing students to form equality groups within the school and cancelling student-planned Pride Weeks in high schools, to forcing teachers to take down rainbow flags in their classrooms, it’s a common theme within the division.
Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools: a welcoming community where we nurture faith, encourage excellence in learning and inspire students to serve others, making the world a better place.—GSCS Official Mission Statement
It’s right there on their website, front and centre. The division’s mission statement outlines its goals to foster a welcoming community within its classrooms. Actions such as the recent email requesting “students don’t visit the Rainbow Tent” at the Nutrien Children’s Festival are simply the latest in a long pattern of deprioritizing student equity and equality. In an attempt to constantly sit on the fence and remain neutral on societal issues, the Greater Saskatoon Catholic School division leadership has firmly planted itself on the side of the oppressor.