Citing work schedule, Jonathan Higdon resigns as FMCSD trustee

Higdon said his resignation is not because of comments made on his private Facebook page in June that critics called transphobic.

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Jonathan Higdon has resigned as a trustee with the Fort McMurray Catholic School Division (FMCSD). He said his resignation is not because of comments made on his private Facebook page in June that critics called transphobic.

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Higdon said his resignation, announced at the district’s Nov. 27 meeting, is because of a hectic work schedule keeping him from attending monthly meetings and events.

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“I believe that this directly impacts my role as a trustee and the ability to govern to the best of my ability for my constituents,” he wrote in a Monday evening statement from FMCSD. “I will continue to be an advocate for Catholic Education and will hold the relationships I have built closely to my heart and look forward to contributing to this community in other ways.”

Higdon said he made his decision “after much prayer, consideration and conversation” with people close to him. He said he enjoyed his time as a trustee and the decision was not easy to make. FMCSD board chair Cathie Langmead thanked Higdon for his work and wished him well.

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“As the board acknowledges the resignation of Trustee Jonathan Higdon, we wish to thank Jonathan for his service to Fort McMurray Catholic Schools,” she said. “We respect his decision in regards to his scheduling commitments due to his work schedule.”

People walk beneath different Pride Flags of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community at the Pride YMM Festival at Fort McMurray Heritage Shipyard on June 24, 2023. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network

FMCSD working on training dates with Pride YMM

Higdon rejected accusations that past comments are hateful towards 2SLGBTQIA+ people. He also refused calls to resign when his comments became public.

One post said “it’s an abomination to think that a God made you a male when you were supposed to be female and vice versa. God doesn’t make mistakes.” A separate post showed a mother and father shielding their children from a rainbow, with the caption “I will teach my child so there is no confusion.”

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“It’s time to be less tolerant of today’s worldly ideologies,” he wrote, adding his post “doesn’t mean I’m homophobic, doesn’t mean I don’t respect people that think differently” and “neither of our opinions is less than the others.”

Higdon said in a video on his Facebook page he has nothing personal against 2SLGBTQIA+ students being open about their beliefs, and is fine with families raising children with the values of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community. He said his comments were not meant to be hateful towards 2SLGBTQIA+ people and did not mean to offend anyone. He denied calling them an abomination, arguing “that is not faith.”

But he would not apologize for beliefs he called typical of Catholic school trustees.

Mitchel Bowers joins a counter-protest supporting sexual and gender education in schools, organized by Pride YMM in downtown Fort McMurray on Saturday, October 21, 2023. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network

Higdon’s June video came after an emotional board meeting. Speakers Michael Jesso and Pride YMM chair Mitchel Bowers said Higdon’s libertarian approach towards his faith and 2SLGBTQIA+ people was inappropriate for an elected official.

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Both critics accused FMCSD of failing 2SLGBTQIA+ students in the months before the meeting. Bowers said a rainbow display was removed from Holy Trinity High School, Pride Week was shortened to a day and a teacher misgendered a transgender parent. Bowers demanded an apology from Higdon. Jesso wanted his resignation.

About 75 per cent of a crowd of dozens packing the meeting cheered and gave Higdon a standing ovation when one person shouted his support for the trustee. Higdon said in his video he was silent at the meeting because the support overwhelmed him.

All trustees, including Higdon, said in a June statement that FMCSD would work with Pride YMM “to reaffirm and build upon our inclusive practices.” A FMCSD spokesperson confirmed Monday that FMCSD is still coordinating a date with Pride YMM for training on 2SLGBTQIA+ issues.

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