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Jeremy Dias, founder of Jer's Vision, meets with 11-year-old Quinn Maloney-Tavares and her friend Polly Hamilton after the public kerfuffle over their 'gay rights' project at their Catholic school.Ann Maloney / Twitter

An Ottawa Catholic watchdog group is accusing the Ottawa Catholic School Board of being more concerned about their portrayal in the media than acting in the best interest of Catholic students.

The newly-formed Catholic Intelligence Association is making the charge as they reveal the internal correspondence at the highest levels of the board over the media frenzy that ensued two months ago when a principal would not allow two grade six girls to research a project on “gay rights.”

Twenty-three pages of email correspondence released to a ratepayer in the OCSB district under a Freedom of Information (FOI) request reveal the board’s panic as national mainstream media capitalized on the story of the girls not being allowed to go ahead with their “social justice” project that they said focused on how “rude” it is to “make being gay a bad thing.”

The emails, dated from Nov. 26-29, show the OCSB first trying to weather the media storm by standing with principal Ann Beauchamp, then caving into mounting pressure and reversing its initial decision less than 48 hours after the storm began.

Director of Education Julian Hanlon defended the move to abandon the principal and her decision in an email to Superintendent Peter Atkinson Saturday Nov. 29, stating that denying a student project on “the gay rights issue, is not one we can defend.”

“Make it clear to her [the principal] that the wheels were falling off and we were in major damage control mode and don’t intend to end up their [sic] again.”

Hanlon interestingly stated to Atkinson that OCSB leadership would not support the girls’ project had it been about the “gay marriage issue,” but that since it was about addressing “bullying etc” it was “something we would allow.”

Principal Beauchamp appears to have not reacted favorably to losing the OCSB’s support.

“I fully appreciate how Ann feels but make it clear we aren’t going back to where we were on Friday,” Hanlon states to Atkinson.

Hanlon ended the email by noting that the “religious right is already on our case” regarding allowing the girls’ project to go forward and that Atkinson should tell the principal that “we’ll worry about that.”

LifeSiteNews contacted the OCSB asking why official Catholic teaching on homosexuality was never referred to in discussions by top OCSB personnel  regarding how to respond to the crisis, but did not receive a response by press time.

Internal correspondence also reveals that the board asked elected trustees to not speak publicly about the matter. The board has said in the past that its policy is for the chairperson and director of education to act as the official spokespeople.

“If you receive any inquirers from the media, pleaser [sic] forward them to Mardi [communications director],” states a Nov. 27 email from then-Chairperson Ted Hurley to OCSB personnel.

At one point communications director Mardi de Kemp suggests to Hanlon that Religious Education Coordinator Jan Bentham should speak to media instead of Superintendent Atkinson since “Jan has beautiful and specific language around the [LGBTQ] topic.” 

The Catholic Intelligence Association criticized the board for being Catholic in name only.

“The state of Catholicism at the OCSB is atrocious. Having Catholic in their title could be considered ‘false advertising’ to parents who are looking for a ‘faithful to the Magisterium’ education for their children,” a spokesperson told LifeSiteNews.

The association said that the emails reveal the board to be “media-centric” and that at no point did officials discuss what “was best for the children” or “what the Church teaches.”

“Looking good in media seemed more important to the OCSB than what is actually best for children or trying to actually be a Catholic Board. The internal emails were shockingly shallow for people being paid so much money,” the group stated on its blog.

The OCSB’s 2013 record of employees’ salaries reveals that Director of Education Julian Hanlon made $236,485 while Superintendent Peter Atkinson made $167,250.