on the job

Trans Teacher Fired Over Gender Reassignment Surgery Doesn’t Want The School’s Hush Money

St. Albert Catholic School District in Edmonton, Alberta, would like Jan Buterman to accept a cash offer and just shut up. But Buterman, a FTM trans former substitute teacher with the school, refuses: Taking St. Albert’s hush money after it terminated him for having a sex change operation would just let the school continue discriminating, he says.

“Since you made a personal choice to change your gender, which is contrary to Catholic teachings, we have had to remove you from the substitute teacher list,” the school’s deputy superintendent wrote Buterman in a letter back in 2008. But after realizing the public funds it receives also means the school cannot willfully discriminate against queer people, the school tried erasing its offensive dismissal — with an offer of a one-time payment of $78,000 or a one-year teaching gig. Instead of taking the offer, he filed a complaint with the Alberta Human Rights Commission.

David Keohane, superintendent of the Catholic school district, said the board has been working with the human rights commission to try to ensure the offer is seen as fair and reasonable. Buterman anticipates the Catholic school board will ask the Alberta Human Rights Commission to dismiss his complaint. The commission has the right not to send a case to hearing if a “fair and reasonable settlement” is offered. “If it’s dismissed, then that’s the end of the struggle,” he said. “But it’s not the end of finding ways to develop a voice.”

[…] “We need concrete examples of things like this that happened,” [Buterman] says. “Erasing them historically affects situations in the future.” This isn’t the first time a school board has been accused of discriminating against a transgender person. In 1988, Carol Allan was forced out of her classroom after she told the Edmonton public school board she was making the transition from a man to a woman. Allan was eventually given a job teaching adults. She was eventually allowed back into the elementary classroom. She retired after 31 years as a teacher.

I like where Buterman is going with this: Rather than let schools (or any employer) offer to pay hush money to make a discrimination complaint go away, he wants to see the school district outed in a public forum for trafficking in transphobia. I’m all for it.

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  • rhen

    I’m proud of Jan for not taking the money and for exposing what happens to trans people every day around the world. Transphobia and discrimination make an already challenging life even more difficult and it’s time our voices are heard.

  • Steve

    As I understand it, in Canada the Catholic school system is at least partly funded with tax money. So they can’t just discriminate

  • Ruhlmann

    @Steve: Catholic schools in Canada are largely taxpayer funded and based on how many students are actually attending any school. They are called the Separate School Board or The Catholic Separate School Board. Allowing a seperate school board was a bone thrown to Quebec which was mainly catholic at the time to join Confederation. Buterman is asserting himself twice here, once against the catholic school system and Alberta society which is the most religious and conservative in Canada. Good for him.

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