NDP government wields “anti-bullying” sledgehammer

antibullying-sledgehammer-final

“It gets better – if we all stand up”

These are the opening words of a petition launched yesterday by the Alberta NDP Party, apparently trying to make it look like they have public support on their side as they continue threatening the destruction of authentic educational choice.

The petition reassuringly states that “all students in Alberta deserve to go to school in a safe and inclusive environment.”

However, Albertans are not so easily fooled by a government that makes a feeble attempt to call something what it is not.

Is inclusion so narrowly defined by our government that it now means only bathroom usage and one certain type of club?

If the government truly wants to be “inclusive”, why not INCLUDE educational choices that truly respect and reflect the diversity of our incredible province?

The Minister of Education wrote a special Facebook letter to LGBTQ students in August, saying “I’m with you one hundred per cent.”

But what about the hundreds of students at the two Edmonton area Christian schools who are now facing an inquiry under Section 41 of the School Act – a move which Minister Eggen admits in a Global News video is “is a very serious step” with “lots of grave consequences attached to it”?

Do these “grave consequences” contribute to students at these schools experiencing a sense of protection, value and belonging? Do these students feel they are equally deserving of inclusion in Alberta’s education system?

Or do these students feel marginalized and traumatized by the government’s punitive threats to remove funding that means they could no longer have the freedom and choice to attend the school they love and which reflects their faith-based values?

Apparently the NDP petition slogan “It gets better” does not apply to all students in the province.

In a pluralistic, multicultural, democratic and free society, hard work is necessary when it comes to the complex balancing of values, needs and responsibilities.

Diplomacy and respect are required – not a sledgehammer.

The NDP petition, alongside their most recent actions, demonstrate clearly that this government is not trying to be “inclusive” at all.

They have been watching our petition and know there is not widespread public support for their actions.

Your voice is making a difference!

And now that our petition is again in the media spotlight through its mention in  yesterday’s Edmonton Journal article, it is more important than ever that we continue to spread awareness about this critical issue.

Please share this information through email and social media and invite people to sign our online petition supporting authentic educational choice.

Help us demonstrate with an even louder, stronger voice how Albertans really feel about this “anti-bullying” sledgehammer approach.

 

 

 

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Gay-Straight Alliances: What you need to know

Pastor Brian Coldwell has ignited a firestorm of controversy regarding his apparent unwillingness to follow legislation that enforces the provision of Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs) onto every school in the province, including the two independent Christian schools he represents in the Edmonton area.

Why would Coldwell seem to defy the law and appear to risk endangering the safety of Alberta’s vulnerable youth by denying peer-support groups that are supposed to provide the assistance that students need – and legally deserve?

To answer this question we must understand more about GSAs and the legislation that governs their provision.

The purposes of GSAs

The website MyGSA.ca, which claims to be “Canada’s website for safer and inclusive schools for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer and questioning (LGBTQ) community,” includes the following information:

purpose of GSAs bordered

Some people find it offensive that opposition exists toward clubs designed to “offer support and resources for students in need” and “promote acceptance, respect, and tolerance of all individuals.”

However, the purposes of GSAs extend beyond only support, also including a strong emphasis on homophobia. Notice how the word “homophobia” is mentioned three times:

a) “…support each other while working together to end homophobia.”
b) “Form alliances and positive relationships between gay and straight students to fight homophobia”
c) Raise awareness and promote education about homophobia

Clearly, homophobia is something that must be taught through education, fought against and ended.  

But what is “homophobia”?

On the Terms and Concepts page, “homophobia” is defined alongside “heterosexism”:

heterosexism homophobia defn bordered

According to this definition, anyone who has an “irrational fear and hatred of homosexuals” (homophobia) or believes that heterosexuality is “superior and more desirable than homosexuality” (heterosexism) is considered “dangerous to individuals and communities”. 

Yes, dangerous.

Not because of behaviour such as hurtful words, physical harm, or cyber-bullying, but simply because of their beliefs.

It is true that an “irrational fear and hatred” of anyone should be viewed as detrimental to society.

However, like it or not, our culture has manipulated and redefined what it means to be homophobic.

“Irrational fear and hatred” is now often popularly understood to mean “those who believe that marriage is sacred and exclusively between one man and one woman.” 

Even the Alberta Teachers’ Association promoted this (mis)understanding of “homophobia” when it posted the controversial Alberta Dad rap video on Twitter and Facebook, with lyrics that include the following:

“Gay marriage is legal and that don’t bother me
Homophobia, biphobia, transphobia
An easy scapegoat for the scared and angry”

ATA Alberta Dad rap

When it comes to our school system, there is a fine line between instruction about an ideology, and promotion of an ideology.

The use of language or clubs that explicitly or implicitly promote a hostile perception of others, simply on the basis of their personal beliefs, may create a safer climate for some – but only at the expense of potentially compromising a “safe, welcoming, caring, and respectful learning environment” for others.

Educators – as well as the organizations that are supposed to represent them – have an obligation to tread with care, compassion and sensitivity when these topics arise.

They have a responsibility to teach all children that the foundation of our free, democratic society relies on respecting the diverse perspectives represented in our multicultural, pluralistic society, even when we don’t necessarily agree.

Claiming these clubs will combat bullying, while also fostering perceptions of others as “dangerous” to society, is not only illogical; it is ineffective.

Disempowering Professional Authority in Schools

Often well-intentioned teachers, school district diversity consultants and principals may attempt to assure the public that they will ensure GSAs do not contribute to a hostile perception of anyone.

But unfortunately, these adults do not ultimately have the final authority on these decisions.

First, GSAs are distinctly defined as “student-led”.

Second, according to the legislation, the role of “staff liaison” is limited to only facilitating and assisting the “voluntary student organization.”

And, when in doubt, refer to the expert analysis of Dr. Kristopher Wells and his well-publicized “Making the Grade” report card criteria.

According to Dr. Wells, the very existence of any “constraints and limitations” that are “imposed” by school personnel onto the operation of GSAs contribute to a lower grade for school district policies (informing parents and putting age limit constraints on GSAs also lowered the score on some policies).


Curiously, all school board policies being awarded the lowest grades by Dr Wells, including the additional mention of Edmonton Catholic receiving a “D” in a CBC article, are Catholic school districts. 

It seems that because Catholic boards have attempted to ensure the legislation is cohesively applied to their school culture and beliefs, they have been subjected to a public smear campaign which has unnecessarily damaged their reputations by falsely suggesting they are not safe places to learn.

While the Ministry of Education does not actually have the authority to “pass” or “fail” school board policies – except where they explicitly violate the law – Dr. Wells’ strategy of PR coercion is an effective warning to any other school boards or teachers who dare to impose limitations on these clubs.

Religious Clubs

At this point in the discussion, some raise the issue of religious clubs.  

Aren’t religious clubs also ideological clubs that promote the superiority of a particular belief/value system?  Could it not be argued that some religious holy books even ultimately have as their goal the eradication of one value system in favour of another?

If so, then why the big fuss over GSAs?

Good question.

In a true display of respecting diversity in our province and making our schools “welcoming, safe, caring and respectful” of everyone, why doesn’t the government eliminate any perception of a double standard when it comes to enforcing ideological clubs in our schools and extend the same legislation and policy protection to the provision of religious student organizations?

a) Religious student organizations would be formed at the request of a single student, in any school.  If the principal or teachers are unable or unwilling to facilitate the group, the Minister of Education will guarantee a person will be provided.

b) Religious student organizations would have the legal right to lead school activities, with no constraints or limitations. The principal and teachers “shall permit” the use of whatever materials the students find most appropriate. Examples may include school-wide worship songs at lunch hours, Sikh parades, Muslim prayer times, Mormon flag raising ceremonies, etc. Because students of religious faith are vulnerable to increasing levels of hostility, these steps would ensure they see themselves as fully valued and included.

c) Religious student organizations would provide “safe places” with adult contacts who could counsel children on their religious struggles.

d) Religious student organizations and school board policies would guarantee the privacy and confidentiality of vulnerable students, especially for those students who fear “coming out” as devoutly religious to parents who have clearly and publicly demonstrated hostility toward religious belief.

Many of us have seen memes circulating over social media in regard to this specific issue that say “You are not  being silenced, bullied, oppressed when another group gains rights you’ve always had”. rights you've always had

But who else has these “rights” when it comes to student clubs, dictating school activities, ensuring confidentiality/privacy from parents in “safe spaces”, as well as assurances that government appointed club facilitators will be provided by the Ministry of Education?

No one does.

Which makes many wonder – in a true display of inclusion and respect for diversity, why is it that our government does not support extending these same “rights” to any other school group through the power of law?

Looming legal challenge?

Brian Coldwell also wants to ensure “safe, welcoming, caring, and respectful learning environment” for Alberta’s students, and wants to do so in a way that honours the role of parents in the care of their children and is cohesive to his faith-based school culture.

Coldwell is protesting legislation that he believes goes too far – legislation which fails to respectfully balance the needs and perspectives of our diverse province and which he believes threatens Charter protected freedoms. 

And he does have a strong legal basis to his stance.

In April 2015, John Carpay, president of the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, wrote an extremely informative analysis of the legal implications of Bill 10 in light of the Supreme Court of Canada Loyola ruling, urging elected representatives to “review and amend Bill 10 to bring it into compliance with the Charter” with a warning that “costly, lengthy and unnecessary litigation could be required to enforce the constitutional rights which protect Alberta’s religious schools, and the right of parents who choose to have their children attend these institutions.

He also wrote a column in the National Post, which concluded:

“If the government fails to amend Bill 10 and thereby provokes a legal challenge, a court would follow the Loyola precedent and likely conclude that Bill 10 undermines the liberty of families which send their children to religious schools.”

As of this past Friday, the Minister of Education has demanded that Coldwell provide a letter by September 19th with an assurance of his “intent to comply with all legislation.”

These new demands by the government make it more important than ever that Albertans – including parents, educators and politicians – are properly informed on this issue so they can advocate for amendments to legislation that would reflect a more thoughtful, balanced approach to supporting at-risk students, while also demonstrating respect for the diverse values of Albertans.

Please consider signing the online petition to demonstrate support for authentic educational choice, including that faith based schools be permitted to operate according to their foundational beliefs without coercion from government or special interest groups. The “How to Respond” page of this site also includes suggestions of what you can do.

Let us not forget that the freedoms most of us take for granted today were hard won with the blood and sacrifice of those who understood firsthand what happens when legislation goes too far and does not properly respect and balance all perspectives.

Regardless of our personal opinions and values, we must not be so blinded by the idea of “progress” that we allow promotion of an ideology to trump respect for others, especially when it comes to legislation governing the teaching of all K-12 children through Alberta’s education system.

Otherwise we may realize too late that the foundation of our multicultural, pluralistic, free and democratic society was a lot more fragile than we could have ever suspected.

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Minister of Education will “aggressively pursue” schools

It is arguably the most definitive stance David Eggen has taken so far on the issue of enforcing sexual orientation and gender identity policies.

According to the opening paragraphs of one CBC article:

Education Minister David Eggen says he will “aggressively pursue” schools that refuse to comply with new guidelines to protect LGBTQ students. “The urgency that’s attached to this circumstance, I recognize very clearly,” Eggen said Thursday. “So, certainly I will be moving on it very quickly, and you’ll see.

However, the Minister of Education will definitely have to clarify these statements, as he is now clearly contradicting his earlier assurances to Albertans in March that the Guidelines were “not legally binding

The debate about funding has certainly escalated in the public sphere, with a lot of media coverage making it a front and centre issue.

It seems the greatest threat currently looming on the horizon is the removal of taxpayer funding for “non-compliant” schools, as well as potential court battles and the possibility of more legislation to impose government directives.

Based on the media reports, those advocating for defunding educational choice use two main arguments:

1. Funding educational choice costs taxpayers more money.

Actually, the opposite is true. According to one comprehensive report, independent schools helped save Albertan taxpayers $750 million dollars.

Not only that, but as stated in the petition, taxpayers are the ones who provide “public” money.  That means the diversity of educational choices, funded either fully or partially through public dollars, should reflect the diversity of Albertans who provide that funding.

To suggest that only some educational choices are “valid” to receive public taxpayer funding demonstrates a shockingly discriminatory premise of inequality which declares that the needs and values of some people are worthy of inclusion in our publicly funded education system – and others are not.

This premise undermines and fundamentally corrupts the functioning of a pluralistic, multicultural and free, democratic society.

And that is not progress.

2. Funding should be removed because schools are not keeping students safe

In an Edmonton Journal article, Pastor Brian Coldwell responded to allegations that his two independent Christian schools are unsafe:

“The schools have a ‘zero-tolerance anti-bullying policy’ from a distinctly Christian perspective, Coldwell said. Any suggestion children are unsafe in the schools is untrue and defamatory, he said”.

Donna Trimble, Executive Director for Parents for Choice in Education, highlighted the same “incorrect and dangerous correlation” in the Calgary Sun:

“Parents, teachers, schools and communities can care compassionately for at-risk youth without agreeing that the policies being enforced by government are beneficial”

…Correlating compassion and care with acceptance of particular policies will always lead to the shutting down of debate, which is the keystone of every democratic nation.”

In response to the news of Pastor Coldwell’s schools, one woman’s personal experience was widely circulated on social media, entitled “Why One Alberta Mom Thinks Funding Private Christian Schools Isn’t Just Wrong…It’s Dangerous”.

Obviously this woman’s experience is devastating and my heart breaks when I hear of anyone suffering for any reason.

However, is it reasonable to take the experience of one person and generalize that experience to justify removing educational choice from countless other families in a different context?

What if I apply that reasoning to a similar personal experience?

I know a close friend who was bullied so relentlessly in public school that she was driven to self-harm and suicide attempts. Thankfully my friend’s parent removed her daughter from that school and they had a much more positive experience with home education. That decision may have been responsible for saving my friend’s life.

However, on the basis of my friend’s personal experience, would it be reasonable to claim public schools are dangerous for everyone and then justify removal of funding from all public schools to home education instead?

I think not.

In fact, the wonderful strength of freedom of choice is that if one setting does not serve the particular needs and values of a child or a family then they have the opportunity to make a different choice.

Using taxpayer funds to impose a “one size fits all” system does not effectively address the diversity of Albertans, nor does it demonstrate the principle of “inclusion” that the the government seems to laud so highly otherwise.

And that is why a disturbing precedent will be set if the government finds justification to remove funding from Pastor Brian Coldwell’s school in this situation.

Please continue to encourage as many people as possible to sign the online petition, and also consider contacting your MLA and phoning the Minister of Education’s office directly (780 427 5010) in order to voice your support for authentic educational choice.

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Province funds millions to school board fighting LGBTQ guidelines, CBC News
(*Thank you to Andrea Huncar for including mention of our petition in her reporting!)

Funding at risk for religious schools that won’t respect students’ rights, education minister says
, Edmonton Journal

Education minister vows to ‘aggressively pursue’ schools that don’t follow LGBTQ policies, CBC News

Alberta pastor to gvmt: No gay clubs or transgender bathroom exceptions in our private schools, LifeSite

Petition calls for Edmonton schools without LGBTQ policies to lose funding, Metro News

Alberta Bill 10 legal battle could loom for non-compliant school boards: advocate, Metro News

 

Authentic educational choice in Alberta under threat

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Authentic educational choice exists in Alberta because families have the freedom to choose the educational settings that best meet the needs of their children.

However, today that freedom of choice is under direct attack in Alberta.

Dr. David Swann, leader of the Liberal party, has suggested the government should consider withdrawing funding, removing charters or dissolving boards that refuse to implement the sexual orientation and gender identity Guidelines provided by Alberta Education.

Not only do his statements show a complete lack of regard for the Minister of Education’s clear assurances to Albertans in March that the Guidelines document was provided as a “resource” that was not “not legally binding”, but he also forgets that he does not fund the entire operation of Alberta’s education system.

Taxpayers do.

Which means that the diversity of educational choices, funded either fully or partially through public dollars, reflect the diversity of Albertans who provide that funding through their tax dollars.

To suggest that only some educational choices are “valid” to receive public taxpayer funding demonstrates a shockingly discriminatory premise of inequality which declares that the needs and values of some people are worthy of inclusion in our publicly funded education system – and others are not.

This alarming premise undermines and fundamentally corrupts the functioning of a pluralistic, multicultural and free, democratic society.

And that is not progress.

Unfortunately, others are also actively advocating to undermine educational choices in Alberta.

Dave Beninger started a petition today demanding that the Minister of Education cut funding to specific Christian private schools.

Dr. Kristopher Wells and Public Interest Alberta have resorted to a public smear campaign to undermine educational choice, in an apparent attempt to coerce faith-based school boards to conform to their bidding.

And last week the Minister of Education David Eggen made an unprecedented declaration over Facebook that undermined the authority of democratically elected school boards.

Frankly, it is irrelevant to this discussion which values you personally happen to agree with.

The fundamental question is not whether any one person believes a set of values to be right or wrong, but whether the government should be permitted to use public purse strings to impose a “one size fits all” approach on all children and their families within our public, independent, home education, charter, and Catholic schools across the province.

Freedom of choice is meaningless if all “choices” are forced to be the same.

In terms of Dave Beninger and Kristopher Wells, they have the freedom to disagree with how Pastor Brian Coldwell chooses to run his private Christian school and how certain school districts choose to write their policies.

But you know the great thing about Alberta?

They also have the freedom to make other choices. And if they don’t like the options available at Pastor Brian Coldwell’s school or anywhere else, then they can feel free to not enroll their children at those schools.

I invite you to communicate your support for authentic educational choice by SIGNING MY PETITION in order to demonstrate that you:

a) support public funds toward a variety of educational options that will continue to serve the diverse needs of families across the province.

b) support the operation of secular and faith based schools to exist and operate according to their foundational beliefs, without coercion from government and special interest groups


Each time a person adds their name, an email will be sent to:
Premier Rachel Notley
Minister of Education, David Eggen
Leader of the Official Opposition, Brian Jean
Interim Leader of the PC Party, Ric McIver
Leader of the Liberal Party, Dr. David Swann

Please also forward this link to others over email and social media to ensure that Albertans make their voices heard loud and clear.

In order to preserve authentic educational choice and meet the needs of all children and families in our multicultural, pluralistic province of Alberta we must advocate that our current model of public funding not be compromised.

Remember that your voice matters.  Not speaking up has a 100% success rate of accomplishing nothing.

Thank you for helping to preserve the diversity of educational choices in this province – for everyone.

 

Unprecedented declaration by Minister of Education raises questions that deserve answers

Newsflash for Albertans:

Effective August 16th, 2016, policy decisions made by democratically elected school boards can be unilaterally usurped by a Minister of Education Facebook note.

In what has been labeled as “unprecedented”, Alberta’s Education Minister published the following open letter to Alberta’s students through his Facebook page earlier this week:

Eggen Open Letter to students01

Eggen Open Letter to students02

This open letter raises questions of critical importance to all Albertans.

Consider the following:

  1. Minister Eggen does not have the authority to simply declare to all students in Alberta “You have the right to use the washroom that is consistent with your gender identity.”

Let’s rewind to January 2016.  Alberta Education released the Guidelines document which ignited controversy across the province.

In March, Minister Eggen wrote letters to respond to the concerns voiced by tens of thousands Albertans who had contacted his office, assuring them that the Guidelines document was a “resource” and “not legally binding.”

Furthermore, he acknowledged:

“each school community is unique and that school authorities are in the best position to create policies that will work for their students, staff and families. In addition to consulting the guidelines, school authorities are encouraged to engage with their communities as they seek to align their policies and procedures with legislation and with their own local context.”

Therefore, in the absence of provincial legislation regarding bathroom policies in schools, some school boards voted to implement new bathroom protocols as per the optional “best practices” of the Guidelines document, while others engaged with their communities and responded by not implementing specific bathroom policies.

This was all done in accordance to provincial legislation, democratic process and Minister Eggen’s guidance.

Which means Minister Eggen must now clarify the content of his open letter to students:

Is Minister Eggen lying to the students he claims to wholeheartedly support 100%, by promising “rights” to them that he does not actually have the authority to provide?

Or is he lying to Albertans and creating a farce out of our province’s democratically elected school boards, who apparently no longer have authentic autonomy to withstand his arbitrary Facebook edicts?

Albertans deserve an answer.

But wait – there’s more.

2. According to the Calgary Herald article about this open letter, “Eggen added the province will also fund special training and development for teachers and staff at schools, provided through a $200,000 provincewide grant.”

It is shockingly generous of the province to pledge a new grant of almost a quarter of a million dollars at a time when our province’s economy is tanking and other vulnerable populations of students have suffered recent cutbacks.

For example, according to a June 29th Medicine Hat News article, upcoming budget cuts of over $400 000 will “severely weaken special needs supports” when it comes to hiring specialists and providing support services “for students who may have complex communication needs, visual impairments, be deaf or hard of hearing, require physiotherapy, or need mental health support”.

Superintendent of Prairie Rose School Division, Brian Andjelic, warns that “if we cut this back even further it is going to put some of those most at-risk students more at risk,” adding that his board of trustees has communicated their concerns to the Minister of Education.

Surely Minister Eggen realizes that students are at-risk across the province, for a multitude of reasons?

Why is it that one specific vulnerable population of students is worthy of generous financial provisions and a special direct government support line, while other vulnerable populations are simultaneously suffering from cutbacks to their support?

Albertans deserve an answer.

Which brings me to one final concern for today.

3. Who will be the experts employed by the $200 000 of provincial grant money for teacher training and professional development?

Almost every article describing Minister Eggen’s Facebook letter also includes references to Dr. Kristopher Wells continuing to loudly assert his own opinions through the mainstream media.  As I wrote in my last article before summer break, all Albertans should be aware of Wells’ remarkable scope of influence on these issues.

Wells’ comments on Wednesday to the Calgary Herald regarding the open letter reveal his clear preference for systems of government that “impose” policy upon citizens.

The Herald notes that Wells is “asking the province to go one step further, making all gender diversity policies public and taking action against those who are not meeting guidelines” and that if “some policies are ‘still a patchwork’, the minister should impose a clear, across the board policy.” (emphasis added)

Minister Eggen’s announcement of $200 000 will go a long way to ensuring some people in our province will have a busy schedule of presentations and workshops to offer.

And it’s worth noting that there are few people in Alberta as qualified and eager as Wells to provide such training and professional development to schools across the province.

I would hope that school boards and administrators are wise when they make decisions of how to spend the $200 000 worth of professional development grant money and consider selecting people who do not vocally advocate for disempowering their authority and governing schools through imposed provincial government edicts that circumvent democratic process.

When it comes to questions of who will be employed by this generous provision of taxpayer funds, Albertans deserve an answer.

As is obvious from Minister Eggen’s open letter, these issues being foisted upon Alberta’s schools will not be going away anytime soon.

In fact, the open letter concluded with a promise that “In the coming weeks, Alberta Education will be promoting new resources to make sure that schools are safe and welcoming.”

And in this respect we ought to learn an important lesson from Dr. Wells’ example.

If Albertans expect to see the change that he has so successfully helped to influence over the past many years, then we need to commit to being just as vocal and persistent.

He won’t stop advocating about the issues that are important to him.

And neither should you.

Donna Trimble, Executive Director of Parents for Choice in Education (PCE), penned an open letter reply to Minister Eggen and has promised upcoming advocacy strategies to harness the collective voice of Albertans across the province.

It is also essential that we continue to encourage family, friends, coworkers and neighbours to become properly informed and engaged on these important issues.

We must continue to advocate on behalf of children, families, democratic freedoms and a respect for all human rights, ensuring that all students in Alberta schools experience a welcoming, caring, respectful and safe learning environment as they return to school in the upcoming weeks.

Subscribe to PCE’s Facebook page or their website newsletter for ongoing updates on how you can continue making your voice heard and refer to the “How to Respond” tab of this website to find the contact information of Minister Eggen, your MLA and school board trustees.

Demand the answers that you deserve from elected officials who are hired to represent you.

Your voice matters.

 

A name every Albertan should know

Dr. Kristopher Wells’ influence within education, politics, sports, media and academia is truly remarkable. Consider some of his contributions:

Youth & K-12 Education

  • Leader of professional development sessions for K-12 educators on topics such as diversity, inclusion and supporting LGBTQ youth GSAs Teacher Guide cover
  • Author of the Alberta Teachers’ Association’s Teacher’s Guide for Gay-Straight Alliances
  • Co-founder of Camp FYrefly, “Canada’s only national leadership retreat for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans-identified, two-spirited, intersexed, queer, questioning, and allied youth,” which has now also expanded to a Grade 7-12 school program

Politics

  • Contributor to several of the research studies and publications listed as resources
    in Alberta Education’s Guidelines document (pages 16-18)
  • Cited by several politicians as being a key influence in the promotion and content of Bill 10 (Hansard for March 10, 2015, pages 541, 545 and 548)
  • First person to have formal audience with PC Premier Jim Prentice after Prentice was sworn in as premier. In a Global News interview, Dr. Wells said “the fact that this was the first meeting on his very first day I think can’t be underestimated. It signals an important message.”


Sports

  • Member of the national Trans Inclusion in Sport Expert Working Group, which is completing a guide for Canadian sport organizations “to assist them in developing policies and practices for the full inclusion of transgender individuals in all levels of sport, including schools”
  • Co-founder of Pride Tape


Academia & Media

  • Faculty Director at the Institute for Sexual Minorities Studies and Services (iSMSS), reported to be “home to one of the world’s most influential and internationally recognized centres for the advancement of gay rights.” (Oct 8, 2014 Global News)
  • Assistant Professor at the University of Alberta, where he inspires and influences our society’s future leaders
  • Frequently interviewed by media as an expert authority on any issue related to sexual orientation and gender identity


Yet, in the midst of all his accomplishments and his fervent championing of human rights, it is astounding to witness the profound disrespect that Dr Wells freely and unapologetically parades through the public sphere.

Depiction of religious groups

KW Nazi cartoon
Not only do many Albertans find this image profoundly offensive on its own, but it is made even more disturbing because it is an altered version of the original image created to remember the 21 Coptic Christian Egyptians executed by ISIS  in Libya in February 2015:

Sheila Gunn Reid on alterations from original

KW original cartoon coptic Christians
After a backlash on Twitter, Dr Wells unapologetically posted the following:

KW block button2

The following dialogue ensued when Dr Wells was questioned on why he deleted the original tweet. Note the only apology he provided related to the image’s “authenticity”:

KW deleted because of authenticity part 1
Unfortunately, this complete lack of respect was not an isolated incident.

In March, an Albertan blogger shared her concerns regarding a comic that Dr Wells posted on Twitter, entitling her post “Dr. Kris Wells: Inclusiveness expert or anti-religion propagator?

this clearly shows his alignment with the hateful organization that came up with this comic and that his objective is not to prevent the bullying of the LGBTQ community, but rather to spread hatred and to bully the Christian community and persons with any sort of sexual morality that does not meet up with his own set of ideologies. Dr. Wells’ demands for ‘inclusive’ policies in Alberta schools clearly don’t extend to anyone who disagrees with his way of thinking in terms of sexuality or religion.”

I encourage you to read more from her post by clicking the image below:

Dr Wells from Clarissa blog

Mischaracterization of parental concerns

Dr. Wells’ public display of disrespect extends to other groups as well.

On May 14th Parents for Choice in Education (PCE) sponsored tremendously successful simultaneous peaceful rallies at the Legislature (Edmonton) and McDougall Centre (Calgary), with 4300+ in attendance who respectfully voiced concerns regarding parental involvement in education

However, Dr. Wells – who was not even present at the rally to hear for himself the perspectives that were shared – promoted an alarmingly inaccurate characterization of the thousands of Albertans who participated in the event:

Dr Wells stupid is stupid does2

But he didn’t stop there.  According to a June 13th Edmonton Metro article about the Mayor’s Pride Brunch, which took place the morning after the horrific Orlando shooting, Dr. Wells again made reference to those who attended the PCE rallies:

Kris Wells knew he had a captive audience Sunday at the Mayor’s Pride Brunch and he didn’t hesitate to use the opportunity… Many speakers alluded to the shooting but chose to concentrate on the celebration of youth. Wells did, too, but couldn’t resist pouncing ever-so-noticeably on some in the crowd, including leaders from political parties whose members sometime run off-message when it comes to strong support for the LGBTQ community. “We can’t forget that people still come to legislature to protest against the right of LGBTQ youth to be safe in their classrooms,”

…. “Just look at the legislature and look at those parties that still refuse to or won’t support the minister of education’s LGBTQ guidelines, or the parents groups that are protesting against the right of LGBTQ youth to be safe in schools,” he said.

“These kinds of messages of intolerance, prejudice and discrimination are what spawn into hate and what turn into violence.”

Notice that while other speakers respectfully chose to “concentrate on the celebration of youth”, Dr. Wells seemed to use the tragedy as a platform to advance a political agenda and to publicly malign parent groups.

In fact, his comments seem to imply an offensive and outrageous illogical association between the violence of the Orlando massacre and Albertans’ concerns about parental involvement in education (which he erroneously misrepresents as protesting “against the right of LGBTQ youth to be safe”).  

How can anyone of such tremendous influence within our government, media and the education of our youth be permitted to publicly misrepresent and vilify groups of people in our province and yet still be considered an “expert” on respect for diversity, inclusion and providing a “welcoming, caring, respectful and safe learning environment” in Alberta schools?

And why is it that mainstream media will devote days to exploring a supposed endorsement of a “homophobic” Facebook comment by Derek Fildebrandt, yet refuse to even acknowledge the repeatedly disrespectful public behaviour of an “anti-bullying” expert?

Now that the Minister of Education has confirmed that sexual orientation and gender identity will be part of the new curriculum, Dr. Wells is eagerly offering his expert assistance.

KW can't wait to assist with curriculum

As electors, parents and taxpayers of Alberta, we are each considered stakeholders in our publicly funded education system.

And we must demand better.

We all have a responsibility to ensure that the education of K-12 students in our province is undertaken by those who are most qualified -and that includes the consultants and experts who work behind the scenes to develop the policies, legislation and curriculum which shape our next generation.

I encourage Albertans to communicate with the Minister of Education  to insist that his office exercises wisdom, discretion and transparency in the selection of those responsible for positions of influence and authority within our education system (Email: edmonton.calder@assembly.ab.ca; Phone: 780 427 5010; Twitter: @davideggenAB).

Remind the Minister of Education that those who malign groups of people, while claiming to protect others, are not defending human rights – they are simply trading discrimination of one group for another. And this type of behaviour is not a solution to hate and bullying. It is a root cause.

Albertans must insist that those in positions of influence within our K-12 education system are committed to true equality – an equality that demonstrates that all people are equally worthy of respect.

Desmond Tutu quote about seeing others as enemy

Meeting with the Minister of Education, David Eggen

The following update was recently provided on the Parents for Choice in Education website and is shared here with permission:

On May 25, 2016 Parents for Choice in Education Executive Director Donna Trimble, Theresa Ng of Informed Albertans and Sara Baril of PRO Children Alberta and Expose CSE Alberta met with Education Minister, David Eggen.

We would not have received this 60-minute meeting if not for the courage, perseverance and love of parents, grandparents and concerned citizens from across Alberta – the tens of thousands of you who wrote letters and made phone calls to your MLAs, the 23,000+ people who have signed the petition so far and the 4500+ of you who showed up in-person from across the province to attend the May 14th rallies.  Your compassion, your love, your tenacity, and your courage can be seen in the pictures from May 14, 2016 at the Calgary McDougall Centre and the Edmonton Legislature. We sincerely thank you all for continuing to remind the Alberta Government that in order to protect ALL Alberta children, parental rights must be upheld.

Many of you have communicated with Donna, Sara and Theresa over the past months (and years) and we used this 60 minute opportunity to clearly represent your concerns. We are honored by the faith you put in us!

We are hopeful Minister Eggen will meet us again in the coming weeks – a promise given at the end of the meeting when Minister Eggen responded to our request for a follow up meeting with, “Sure, definitely.”  Donna will be following up with Jeremy Nolais, the Chief of Staff for Minister Eggen, to garner this meeting, and we hope for a thorough response to the information we provided, including a continued dialogue on the specific questions we provided for him on the Meeting Agenda.

We appreciated that Minister Eggen’s overall tone was positive, collaborative and receptive to our concerns. He stated rights must be “balanced”, that hearing our concerns was “helpful”, he was left with a lot to “think about”, and he wanted “to provide clarity and interaction”. He acknowledged that he sees the “hot spots”, and “need[s] to be conscious of people’s rights… work[ing] in harmony.”

First, Donna spoke to the importance of parental involvement in the care and counselling of at risk youth, especially those who identify as being associated with the LGBTQ population. We used studies procured by those in support of transgenderism and the LGBTQ as these studies repeatedly prove that the most important ally to these children are their own parents. Quoting from Trans Pulse, Impact of Strong Parental Support for Trans Youth, we read the following: “Knowing one has social and family supports is very important in the development of one’s overall sense of health and well-being. In Trans PULSE, parental support of youth’s gender identity and expression was directly associated with how trans youth rated their health and general well-being.”

On suicide risk: “Consideration of suicide was common, and was reported by 35% of youth whose parents were strongly supportive and 60 % of those whose parents were not strongly supportive. Particularly alarming is that among this latter 60%, nearly all (57%) had actually attempted suicide in the past year. In contrast, only 4% of those with strongly supportive parents attempted suicide. While 4% is still far too high, the impact of strong parental support can be clearly seen in the 93% reduction in reported suicide attempts for youth who indicated their parents were strongly supportive of their gender identity and expression.”

Finally, regarding how the government should be approaching these issues in schools we read that “…ultimately our data indicate that it is parents and caregivers themselves who provide the foundation for their children’s health and well-being with their support. Therefore, policy-makers and Service Providers need to ensure effective services are available directly for parents and caregivers of trans youth.”

Donna stated that parents must be notified and informed of the needs of their children in school, and if circumvented – in cases of genuine danger – there must be a formula by which other outside resources (e.g. Social Services) are engaged to provide a team of support for the child, with proper documentation. Donna said this must be written into Bill 10 and School Board Policies and quoted from Theresa Ng, “We must advocate for policies that encourage at-risk, vulnerable youth to strengthen child-family bonds, as this is a key protective factor identified by the research to increase their resilience in the face of challenges and adversity.”

In response to Minister Eggen’s mention that “only in extreme circumstances” would parents not be informed, Theresa Ng quoted directly from Calgary Board of Education’s Conditions to Thrive document (page 5-39), which clearly instructs that “should a student disclose that they are a sexual or gender minority to a CBE staff member, the information should be held in confidence. Unless a student provides permission to share this information, the staff member should not disclose this information to anyone else, including other staff members and parents/guardians.” Theresa pointed out that the messaging was very different from Minister Eggen’s assurances and asked how parents were supposed to reconcile these two very different messages – what Minister Eggen is saying with what the policies are saying – especially since what is written trumps what is said.

Theresa Ng, who worked as an elementary teacher for many years, then spoke to the fact that Bill 10 and the sexual orientation and gender identity policies put forth by many school boards, based on the Education Guidelines, disempower teachers and other school staff from using their professional judgement to most effectively support children because policies such as the one cited by the Calgary Board of Education (CBE) do not allow teachers to access supports, such as parents and the expertise of other staff and professionals, unless the child provides permission. She stated that factors of age, maturity and developmental appropriateness have not been considered in the application of these policies, as well as in the presentation of information in schools related to concepts of gender fluidity (quoted definition on page 5-35 of CBE’s document) and the Genderbread Person.  She also said that encouraging private conversations of a sexual and sensitive nature between a school staff member and a child from 5 to 18 years of age raises red flags for educators and parents alike. Teachers are already over burdened just trying to educate a wide range of students in a classroom and these expectations put them under additional strain.

Sara Baril spoke next, and she spoke for children and specifically about Comprehensive Sexuality Education. She stated that parents are described as ‘partners’ in the Education Act, and that ‘partners’, in the care of children, do not keep secrets. She spoke about the need to consider the diverse individual needs of children in relation to club attendance, counselling, and Sexual Education. She also explained that families in Alberta hold a wide range of values on gender and human sexuality, from secular to deeply religious, emphasizing that freedom of religion, belief and association must be respected and that these changes must balance freedoms.

As Alberta’s curriculum for Sexual Education and Career and Life Management (CALM) will soon be undergoing revisions, Sara expressed that it is essential parents are engaged in the process, with a seat at the table of discussion. She emphasized that children are not miniature adults and information must be age appropriate.  Sara explained the concept of an ‘opt-in’ for parents, where no child should ever be engaged in study or counselling of a sexual nature (including matters regarding gender identity and expression) without explicit permission of the parents. Furthermore, that it is essential any curriculum of a sexual nature be provided to parents. This being key as all children are different, and with a class of 20-30 students a teacher may not know and/or be able to address all the needs and sensitivities of every child considering factors such as: maturity, temperament (shyness), past or present sexual abuse (post traumatic responses in abused children), developmental or social disabilities (1 in 10 students have developmental challenges), the cultural beliefs of families that may be in opposition to the activities of clubs, counselling and Sexual Education, etc. Sara also mentioned that encouraging private discussions on sexuality between a troubled student and school staff is not only contradictory to the Alberta Teachers Association’s advice in a handbook Teachers’ Rights, Responsibilities and Legal Liabilities (page 34), but fosters increased risk of sexual abuse – which, while rare, can and has happened.  Sara provided a letter outlining these concerns to Minister Eggen for his future reference.

Donna ended the meeting by reminding Minister Eggen that Parents for Choice in Education does not hold a position on Gay Straight Alliances (GSAs) in and of themselves. That being said, GSA’s and many activities that would take place in these “student-driven” clubs are in contradiction to many school cultures and to families who send their children to non-faith based schools like public schools. Donna reminded Minister Eggen that prior to Bill 10, there were already support groups in many schools – including the Catholic Separate School Board – that supported youth at risk very well while being cohesive to sensitivities of families and school culture. Bill 10 mandated clubs and how they could be named, and removed the rights of parents and administrators to ensure that any activities in these clubs would be cohesive to the school setting or beliefs of parents. She explained this is in contradiction to Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Education Act, where parents are the primary directors of their children’s education. She also explained how stripping the right of school administrators and parents to work with students in the development of clubs, as was the case prior to Bill 10, is liable to create more distress for children as this will likely create battles between children and parents or students and school staff, parents and schools, or schools and the government. Consequently, this will leave already at-risk children at the centre of a battle ground, and suffering the ramifications of such conflict. Donna asked that amendments be made to ensure that parents and schools can work with children to ensure that clubs are cohesive to the needs of children, while respecting the culture of their families and schools. Supporting children need not create contradiction between a child’s struggles and their faith traditions.

Throughout the meeting Minister Eggen often replied to the information with comments such as “that is interesting”, “that is very helpful”, “I can understand”, “will look into that”.

This meeting was a positive start to what Parents for Choice in Education hopes will be an ongoing dialogue with Minister Eggen and the Government of Alberta on how to create and provide a welcoming, caring, respectful and safe learning environment for all students in Alberta schools. This will be accomplished through supporting active parental involvement and participation.

Once again, we want to thank each of you for making this meeting possible with your involvement in confronting Bill 10, school board policies based on the Education Guidelines, and the upcoming revision of Sexual Education and CALM Curriculum in Alberta. Thank you also to Jackie who took notes during the meeting!

We are proud to be working with each one of you, protecting the children of Alberta, by defending parent rights. We will not relent.

Donna Trimble, Sara Baril, and Theresa Ng

PDF: Minister Eggen Meets with Parents -Through PCE

PDF Summary: Minister Eggen May 25th meeting summary