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Fired transgendered teacher rejects offer, still speaking out

Transgendered teacher's decision could affect human rights complaint

By: By Damien Wood

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Apr 13, 2011 06:00 am

Former St. Albert Catholic teacher Jan Buterman has turned down a settlement offer from the school division so he can continue to speak out against discrimination. The transgendered male was fired as a substitute teacher in 2008.
Former St. Albert Catholic teacher Jan Buterman has turned down a settlement offer from the school division so he can continue to speak out against discrimination. The transgendered male was fired as a substitute teacher in 2008.
APRIL BARTLETT/St. Albert Gazette

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The battle over transgendered rights versus religious belief between a teacher and his one-time employer — Greater St. Albert Catholic Schools — is going anything but smoothly.

Jan Buterman was dismissed as a substitute teacher in 2008, the same year he started with the local school division and the same year he started the several-year process of shifting from woman to man.

Until recently his human rights’ complaint filed at the Alberta Human Rights Commission had been legally funded by the Alberta Teachers’ Association.

But after turning down offers of settlement, the ATA has withdrawn funding and the commission may well wash its hands of the matter, too.

The school division’s most recent offer was $78,000, but it would mean never talking publicly about the case.

“I’m not against money, but then there are some other things they’re wanting to add into that, which I’m not cool with,” said Buterman. “‘Thou shalt never speak of this again.’ That kind of approach.”

Buterman is not willing to “revise history,” as he sees it, for the sake of cash.

It leaves him profoundly uncomfortable.

“I don’t even know how you edit your own life like that,” he said.

Though Buterman’s stance is already public, the school division is still awaiting a formal rejection of the offer, though media inquiries have offered a glimpse of its stance.

“We don’t see that portion of the settlement as extraordinary at all,” said David Keohane, superintendent for the school division. “Those types of arrangements are concrete, predictable and commonplace, with any structured agreement … that’s what enables the parties to progress with their lives.”

Keohane believes the offer made was fair and reasonable and therein lies the potential problem for Buterman.

If the commission agrees the offer is fair and reasonable it can dismiss the complaint.

“I am quite willing to live with that,” said Buterman. “I would far rather be able to continue to talk about this … and be able discuss the issues that come up when these types of things happen to people like me.”

Buterman is willing to be the “concrete example” needed to illustrate what is reality for some in his situation.

Keohane said the school division’s position hasn’t changed.

But prior to the settlement package, it did offer Buterman a teaching job of sorts, albeit one “in an environment not connected to the witness and modelling requirements of our faith,” according to Keohane.

Buterman said it was a gig that would not have had him teaching in front of students.

The restriction would have left him unable to get permanent certification.

“That all points to the fact that there have been several gestures to settle this issue,” said Keohane. “From our perspective, we have done all that is reasonable.”

As the matter moves forward — if it moves forward — Buterman will continue to speak out.

“As a public institution, I’m deeply concerned when people would be prevented from participating in that public institution on the basis of something like this, or anything that they should not be discriminated against,” he said.


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