On Monday March 13th at 6:30 p.m. I published a blog article which exposed how a taxpayer funded website, recommended by Alberta Education for K-12 children, linked directly to a number of “community supports” with sexually graphic articles and content. In only 48 hours that article was viewed over 34, 000 times and shared over 6, 000 times over Facebook.
Because of the public outrage following this news, 18 of the original 66 links provided as “community support” on the Alberta GSA Network were removed by the following afternoon. That means that over 27% of the total links were deemed inappropriate for K to 12 children and taken down – which is far from being an isolated issue or an accidental oversight.
The fact is that the Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services (iSMSS), who organizes the GSA Network, did not properly vet their links and community supports, which only proves their lack of competence when it comes to being trusted with the safety of our K-12 children.
For months students have had access to sexually graphic material with only 1 to 2 clicks from a government funded and recommended website offering support to K-12 children. If I had not happened to come across these links they would still be there.
Why is it up to citizens to vet these government funded and recommended resources? Shouldn’t the Alberta government be hiring people who can do their job without volunteer citizens having to do it for them?
Removing links does not solve the problem. The underlying problem still remains – who is the NDP government entrusting with authority over our K-12 education system?
The response from iSMSS
The first response of iSMSS to the news I published was a statement provided to Danielle Smith on News Talk 770, which she read on-air.
The Director of iSMSS called my blog article “sensationalism” and “nothing more than hysteria”. He criticized Danielle Smith saying that he was “disappointed you would give this group any air time” and that “giving them a platform only legitimizes their extremist view.” (Listen starting at minute 13:12 )
Later in the day, this same Director referred directly to my Informed Albertans article and tweeted a request to turn “hate into help” with a link for donations. Instead of apologizing for the exposure of children to sexually graphic material – or thanking concerned parents for doing his job – he instead called it “hate” and turned it into a fundraising opportunity.
Does the Minister of Education really think that the government should continue to provide authority over K-12 children to someone who labels it “extreme” and “sensationalistic” to draw attention to sexually graphic material being linked to from a government funded website targeted to kids as young as five?
Is it really “hate” and “anti-LGBTQ” for me to speak up in protection of all our province’s children against exposure to content that includes BDSM and advice to “pay for porn”?
Critical Questions, but still no answers
Simply removing the links also leaves many critical questions unanswered.
The GSA Network was never meant to be a passive source of information for K-12 children, but an active network directing and connecting “local organizations, community groups, and schools.”
Aren’t there concerns why K-12 kids are being encouraged to register their club online with an outside organization like iSMSS and for what purposes that information is then used?
In what way does iSMSS “provide other community supports” to students who register? Who is overseeing communication between K-12 students with adults who are outside the school system?
Given the lack of competence demonstrated by iSMSS with vetting external links, how can we have confidence in how they are “directing and connecting” schools and students to local organizations and community groups?
Most importantly, why aren’t these critical questions being asked?
Who is in charge?
Alberta is undergoing the most massive curriculum re-write in our province’s history. As a former teacher, I understand that curriculum not only affects our students now, but for decades into the future. It is therefore essential that we trust only the most qualified professionals at the helm.
I was deeply disturbed by what I found provided as “support” for K-12 children on the GSA Network website, organized by iSMSS. I have also become increasingly concerned by the unprofessional conduct that the Director of iSMSS has demonstrated on repeated occasions, including:
– continual attempts to vilify concerned parents and citizens (including unfounded accusations of being “anti-LGBTQ”, “hate”, “extremists”, etc)
– public smear campaign against Catholic education which prompted formal complaints from two Catholic Superintendents, the Alberta Catholic School Trustees’ Association and the Council of Catholic School Superintendents of Alberta
– public mocking of concerned parents by posting their letters of concern on his Facebook page.
How is it that this individual can continually behave in such an unprofessional manner and get away with it by calling other people names?
If the Minister of Education won’t tell us who is on the list of those rewriting the curriculum, then he better assure us who is not on the list.
Albertans need to know: who is really holding the reins of power behind the scenes at Alberta Education?
To the Minister of Education David Eggen:
Will you assure Alberta parents and taxpayers that iSMSS, along with and any associated staff and Directors, are no longer involved in any capacity with the K-12 curriculum re-write or the provision of resources, research or teacher training that is being funded by the Alberta government?
And to fend off the feeble, predictable and ridiculous complaints involving some sort of fictional narrative of a “witch hunt”, I will remind everyone that parents and children in this province expect and deserve the highest vetting standards when it comes to those in authority over our K-12 education system.
I worked as a teacher for many years. I recognize that educators hold a position of sacred public trust.
Think about it:
If your child’s teacher publicly mocked parents over social media, or posted an ad featuring naked young people who “share an erotic kiss on a tennis court” and “are often seen embracing, rolling around on the ground together” or if they provided external links that directed K-12 children to sexually graphic material do you really think they would – or should – still be employed and entrusted with the care of K-12 children?
Why would we continue to fund and employ incompetence that can easily lead to the endangerment of children?
Is that an example of a “witch hunt”? Or being responsible for our kids?
iSMSS and its Director have severely violated the public trust and have repeatedly demonstrated they should not be in a position of influence in our K-12 education system at all.
There are plenty of psychiatrists, counsellors and health professionals who can be trusted to support K-12 students – especially vulnerable children who identify as LGBTQ – in a way that is competent, respectful and professional.
Enough is enough – Alberta children deserve better.
Your Voice Matters
Thank you to Leela Aheer for making a member’s statement in the Legislature on Wednesday. Thank you also to Jason Kenney who emailed a statement to stand with parents who are deeply concerned about children being exposed to this inappropriate material in our K-12 education system.
These courageous statements by politicians would not have happened if not for the people of Alberta, who immediately got on the phone and on email to make sure their elected representatives knew what was happening.
As I’ve said before: “Don’t expect politicians, even good ones, to do your job for you. Politicians are like weather vanes. Our job is to make the wind blow.”
Politicians are not leaders as much as they are followers. The only way our Minister of Education, school board trustees and MLAs will ever consider taking a stand for our concerns is if we continue to voice those concerns loudly and persistently. Consider making a phone call, sending an email or arrange a meeting.
We need you – Albertan parents and taxpayers – to keep up the pressure.
This issue cannot be a flash in the pan that only gets a few days of outrage from Albertans and then iSMSS and its Director continue to rewrite the curriculum, conduct “safe and caring” teacher PD sessions and lead sexual health conferences for K-12 children once the controversy dies down.
Removing links is only a start to dealing with the real problem.
The following question must be answered:
Is the Alberta government continuing to allow these same people to have authority and taxpayer funds when it comes to the provision of curriculum, resources and teacher training in our K-12 education system?
For those of you who also want an answer to that question please add your name to the petition. The more people who sign, the more it shows that the NDP government will not succeed at quietly hoping this important issue will go away.
Be vocal and persistent – please take a stand for the protection of children in Alberta.