There are many reasons I take issue with the editorial written recently in the Alberta Teachers’ Association (ATA) News. Last week I wrote about some of my concerns and today I will address two more, one questioning Jonathan Teghtmeyer’s source of information and another focused on his claims regarding parental notification.
Mr. Teghtmeyer, the ATA News Editor-in-Chief, refers to the Calgary Sexual Health Centre’s website understandingtheguidelines.ca in order to dispel “myths”. This site is often referred to by those who promote Alberta Education’s Guidelines document.
However, is the Calgary Sexual Health Centre really the best authority to provide so-called “accurate” information on this topic?
Interestingly, Calgary Sexual Health Centre has significant links to Planned Parenthood, an organization in the United States which is:
- rapidly expanding their paid services to include providing hormone therapy for transgender people
- becoming increasingly allied with LGBTQ lobby groups.
- part of IPPF (International Planned Parenthood Federation) which is promoting its contentious comprehensive sexual education throughout the world.
For those who want to investigate the connections between Calgary Sexual Health Centre and Planned Parenthood, I have provided more information in the Articles & Links section.
While none of these connections specifically discredit the information provided by the Calgary Sexual Health Centre regarding Alberta Education’s Guidelines document, it does make it clear that their seemingly benign, neutral and non-partisan name does not on its own reveal the inherent bias that their organization would have on this particular topic.
Indeed, any resource from any organization with any possible connection to Planned Parenthood and its international partners is NOT neutral on this issue.
All Albertans, as well as the ATA, must be careful to question and examine closely the Calgary Sexual Health Centre’s underlying motivations in promoting the Guidelines.
As stated before, however, potential bias when evaluating a source of information does not necessarily discredit the information they provide.
So let’s take a closer look at just one point for today, focused on the section quoted from the ATA editorial regarding parental notification, which apparently bases its “myth-busting” on the Calgary Sexual Health Centre website.
Myth: Parental rights related to the education of their children are being curtailed.
Best practice: “Respecting an individual’s right to self-identification.” (p. 5)
Reality: Sexual and gender minority students have the right to decide if, when and how they will come out — including coming out to their parents. The Code of Professional Conduct and Bill 10 provide legal frameworks that prevent teachers from outing students — even to their parents. This is not an infringement of parents’ rights. If parents want to know about their child’s sexual orientation or gender identity, then they should talk to their child.
As a former elementary school teacher and a parent, I find this line of reasoning fascinating: “if parents want to know about their child’s sexual orientation or gender identity, then they should talk to their child.”
If only we applied this rationale to the rest of a child’s educational journey, teachers could save a ton of paperwork.
We could certainly do away with any sort of progress reports. After all, if you want to know how little Johnny is doing in math or reading, just ask him. That math test he failed? The school won’t let you know. Just ask your child. After all, wouldn’t Johnny be the best authority on what he knows or doesn’t know?
Classroom and school newsletters would become a thing of the past. Parents, if you want to know what your kids are learning, just ask them.
And that black eye that Sally came home with? Well, don’t ask the school. Ask your child. After all, if parents really want to know any of these things, then their child knows best. It is up to the student to tell their parents, on their own terms.
Do you know why we need progress reports, newsletters and incident reports?
Because effective educators know that education works best when we all work together.
We know that we strengthen a child’s resilience and success when all stakeholders – parents, student, teacher, administrators and any necessary medical professionals – engage in dialogue and tackle the tough issues together. This applies to all students, LGBTQ or otherwise. In my teaching experience this was always the approach – to strengthen parent engagement, not diminish it. And when there is any suspected risk of harm to the child then we as teachers would always, always recognize the limits of our expertise and have a professional, legal obligation to refer on to the appropriate authorities.
It is a horrific reality that some children live in homes where they are abused and fearful. But you know what? The abuse can happen because a child comes out as gay or transgender. Or it could happen because the kid failed an exam. Or even because they got in a fight at school and ended up with a black eye. Sadly, abuse happens for a lot of reasons. Even more tragically, it may happen without any reason that directly relates to the child.
Does the fact that abuse could happen in any or all of these situations mean that we develop policies that this information be withheld from all parents? Is that truly in the best interests of the students?
When an editorial representing the Alberta Teachers’ Association claims “The Code of Professional Conduct and Bill 10 provide legal frameworks that prevent teachers from outing students — even to their parents,” then parents (and teachers) must demand some answers.
I have heard some well-reasoned arguments for the provision of safety for teens that are struggling with “coming out” to their families. But even if we were to accept the assumption that teens are better off navigating sexual orientation and gender identity issues in isolation from their parents (an assumption I personally have strong reservations about), then parents still need to understand that the guidelines Alberta Education is suggesting for implementation into school board policies lack any mention of developmental age-appropriateness.
As I shared in a recent blog post, even the research that NDP MLAs were using in their form letter responses to “reassure” concerned parents voicing opposition to the Guidelines was based on a study of transgender people ages 14-25.
The reality is that these guidelines do not just apply to teens. They are being suggested by Alberta Education to apply to all K-12 students, most of them ages 4 through 19.
So based on Mr Teghtmeyer’s statements in his ATA editorial, I have an important question as a parent:
If my Grade 1 son decides that he identifies as a girl at school and even requests to use female pronouns and uses the female washroom, are there legal frameworks in place to prevent teachers from telling me as a parent?
Mr Teghtmeyer, parents and teachers deserve a clear answer to this question.