EXCLUSIVE: Mount Saint Charles Removes Ban on Transgender Students

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

 

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Last week GoLocalProv first reported that the Parent-Student handbook of the Catholic school in Woonsocket, had added language in October of 2015 that banned transgender students from the school. Now, GoLocal has learned that the policy has been changed and the ban has been removed.

The GoLocal article was sparked by a group of young alumni who were shocked and opposed the ban.

The change in policy — the removal of the ban on transgender children — was implemented by the Mount Saint Charles Board after reviewing the policy.

Here is a recap of the events:

Thursday Evening

Mount Saint Charles Academy in Woonsocket, Rhode Island has issued a policy banning transgender students from the school, according to the Parent and Students Handbook.

The 2015-2016 edition, the Philosophy of Admissions’ section of the handbook states, “Mount Saint Charles Academy is unable to make accommodations for transgender students. Therefore, MSC does not accept transgender students nor is MSC able to continue to enroll students who identify as transgender.”

Alumni of the school took to social media criticizing the policy of the school. According to the school’s website, the policy was updated in October of 2015. And, it is unclear if any students were asked to leave the school.

Mount Saint Charles teaches "in the tradition of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart" and is listed as a member school of the Providence Diocese. Leaders at Mount Saint Charles did not respond to questions. Neither President of the School Herve Richard or Principal Edwin Burke responded to questions.

According to the schools mission statement, “Each and every student is known, valued, treasured and taught in partnership with the family.”

"As a constitutional matter, the fact that the school receives some state aid is not sufficient to subject them to constitutional constraints, which generally apply only to government actions. There are, of course, separate *statutes* that ban discrimination in both public and private institutions, but many of those statutes have exemptions for religious institutions," Steven Brown, Executive Director of the Rhode Island ACLU, told GoLocalProv.

In March of 2015, Pope Francis meet with a number of transgender men during a visit to a prison in Naples. “When Pope Francis pays a visit to Naples this Saturday he will have lunch with some 90 inmates at a local prison, a contingent that will reportedly include 10 from a section reserved for gay and transgendered prisoners, and those infected with the virus that causes AIDS,” reported the Religion New Service.

In 2013, when Pope Francis was asked about gay clergy being allowed in the Catholic Church, he responded, “Who am I to judge.” That statement was widely praised by gay, lesbian and transgender advocates around the world

In September of 2015, it was reported the Vatican upheld a Bishop refusal to allow transgender to be a godparent.

Friday Morining Mount Saint Charles Alumni Mobilize to Reverse Transgender Policy

After GoLocalProv.com first reported that Mount Saint Charles is banning transgender students from the school, a petition was started asking school president Herve Richer to "leave the hateful rhetoric in the past, and accept trans students."

The petition, which was posted on the Facebook page "Concerned Alumni Against Mount," was started by David Coletta from Johnston. It had almost five hundred signatures by noon on Friday.

READ: See the Petition HERE

The petition reads:

Mount St Charles Academy in Woonsocket, RI just disclosed that they will be banning transgender students from attending the school. This policy appears in the new student handbook. Sign this petition to let MSC know that all students with a desire to learn and excel should be allowed that opportunity, gender aside. Read more about this topic here: http://m.golocalprov.com/news/mount-saint-charles-academy-bans-transgender-students

On Friday, the Roman Catholic Diocese said it is declining to comment on the matter. 

"Any comment on this will have to come from the school," said Carolyn Cronin, spokesperson for Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence.  "This is not a diocesan policy, it is a school by school policy, according to Diocese of Providence Catholic School Superintendent Dan Ferris."

The Rhode Island ACLU provided the following on the issue of civil liberties. 

"As a constitutional matter, the fact that the school receives some state aid is not sufficient to subject them to constitutional constraints, which generally apply only to government actions. There are, of course, separate *statutes* that ban discrimination in both public and private institutions, but many of those statutes have exemptions for religious institutions," Steven Brown, Executive Director of the Rhode Island ACLU, told GoLocalProv.

The Commission for Human Rights in Providence said that they "do not have jurisdiction of education issues."

"I can't comment on this issue, as we don't have jurisdiction over education issues," said Executive Director Michael Evora. "We deal with employment issues, and have dealt with issues of transgender policy.  As none of those has risen to the level of public hearings -- they've either been settled or dismissed -- I can't comment further on those."

Friday Morning: Mount Alum Issues Open Letter on YouTube Against School’s Transgender Discrimination

A video blogger and 2004 Mount Saint Charles alumni named Mike, who goes by "Mathas" on YouTube, issued a scathing open letter to the Catholic school for their transgender policy, which GoLocalProv was first to report on Thursday. 

Mathas, whose YouTube focus is usually on on video games and gaming, said, "Once in a blue moon something happens I get riled up over" - and lit into the school. 

"It frustrates me and scares me about the future of what that school is going to become," said Mathas. "Mount you taught me to love, you taught me to accept.  How dare you go back on those lessons that you taught me and thousands of others...and backpeddle to a bygone era."

Friday Afternoon Mount Saint Charles Issues the First of Two’ Statement Defends Ban on Transgender Students

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Read the first statement


The policy that currently appears in the Mount Saint Charles Student Handbook is not intended to be discriminatory toward transgendered students nor is Mount Saint Charles Academy’s intent or desire to exclude transgender students. The policy was put in place for the simple reason that Mount Saint Charles feels that its facilities do not presently provide the school with the ability to accommodate transgender students.
As a Catholic school, Mount Saint Charles recognizes its call to serve all children who desire a Catholic education, but Mount Saint Charles also recognizes that it is not a comprehensive high school with the ability to serve all students. Some students may not be academically qualified. Others may have learning plans which the school cannot accommodate. And in some cases, our facilities may not be adequate to service some students.
Although the school has not been approached with any requests to admit transgender students, Mount Saint Charles Academy’s administration has been exploring ways in which it might provide reasonable accommodations for transgender students and fulfill its mission.
Rather than criticize the school for a policy you deem unreasonable, please try to understand the reason for its existence, please know that we would very much like to correct the problem, and your help would go a long way in allowing us to achieve that goal.

 

Friday Afternoon - Mount Issues a Second Statement

Read the Second Mount statement

 

Within 45 minutes of issuing a statement on the Mount Saint Charles' ban of transgender students, the school issued a second statement which was more conciliatory in language and reaffirmed the ban on transgender students.

Mount Saint Charles Academy deeply regrets the unintended hurt feelings at and seeming insensitivity of our policy regarding the acceptance of transgendered young people.  The policy that currently appears in the Mount Saint Charles Student Handbook is not intended to be discriminatory toward transgendered students nor is Mount Saint Charles Academy’s intent or desire to exclude transgender students.  The policy was put in place for the simple reason that Mount Saint Charles feels that its facilities do not presently provide the school with the ability to accommodate transgender students.

As a Catholic school, Mount Saint Charles recognizes its call to serve all children who desire a Catholic education, but it also recognizes that it is not a comprehensive high school with the ability to serve all students.  Some students may not be academically qualified.  Others may have learning plans which the school cannot accommodate.  And in some cases, our facilities may not be adequate to service some students.

Although the school has not been approached with any requests to admit transgender students, Mount Saint Charles Academy’s administration has been exploring ways in which it might provide reasonable accommodations for transgender students and fulfill its mission. 

 
 

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