Author Catherine Hernandez was ready to read her LGBT-friendly children’s book, M is for Mustache: A Pride ABC Book, at Charlottetown Junior Public School — until the school backed out at the last minute.
The children’s picture book, set to be released in September, is an alphabet book detailing some of the things children might see at a Pride event. “A is for Ally, which me and my mama try to be everyday,” it begins.
“I thought, wouldn’t it be great for Pride to go and offer . . . almost like a circle time, with the kids,” Hernandez says. She is also a home daycare provider who has experience doing similar work with children.
Hernandez’s daughter, who inspired M is for Mustache, is a former student at Charlottetown Junior Public School in Scarborough. Hernandez approached her daughter’s former teacher, thinking the class would enjoy seeing the book.
She says that the teacher was initially excited about having her in to read M is for Mustache. However, a few weeks later, Hernandez says the teacher informed her that Marlie Delicieux, the school’s vice-principal, had vetoed the project, saying, “not now.”
Hernandez says that when she asked for clarification, the teacher told her there were fears there would be backlash from parents who were already upset about Ontario’s updated sex-education curriculum which is set to be introduced in September.
Delicieux and the school’s principal did not respond to Daily Xtra’s requests for comment.
TDSB spokesperson Ryan Bird says that the refusal came down to a matter of timing. “The timing did not work given that it was getting close to the end of the school year, which is a very busy time,” Bird says. He says that it is not his understanding that any concerns were raised by the principal relating to the sex-education curriculum.
He adds that school officials will be happy to look at Hernandez’s request in the fall.
Requests for readings are handled on a school-by-school basis and by the school’s administration, according to Bird.
Hernandez did reach out directly to Delicieux by email, but never got a response.
However, Hernandez was able to read her book recently at the school parenting and family literacy centre at Nelson Mandela Park Public School. She also did a reading at the Nelson Mandela Day Care Centre, which is not operated by the TDSB. Hernandez said both readings were received warmly by the children in attendance — but she did later hear from a friend that there were some complaints from parents.
“We were just really sad,” Hernandez says of hearing of the complaints.
Bird did confirm there were some parent concerns raised over the reading at the literacy centre.
Nelson Hillier, the coordinator at the Nelson Mandela Day Care Centre, did not respond to Daily Xtra’s request for comment before deadline.
“It’s 2015, you think they would be open to this discussion,” Hernandez says. “I’m not doing sex education. I’m showing positive images of what a queer family looks like. I’m teaching them terms like ‘ally’ and ‘Pride’ — these are all beautiful parts of being in a queer family.”
However, Hernandez is not looking for an apology. “I think any person of colour knows that apologies only get you so far,” she says. “We’re looking for actual progress — and I don’t mean tolerance, I mean actual acceptance.”