Question: Should school staff be forbidden to share information with parents regarding a child’s activities during the school day?
That is the question that will be up for debate by Edmonton Public School Board (EPSB) trustees on Tuesday September 12th, thanks to a motion put forward by trustee Bridget Stirling:
Motion that the Board of Trustees affirms our commitment to protecting the privacy and confidentiality of sexual and gender minority students as stated in HFA.BP and HFA.AR, including students’ participation in gay-straight alliances and queer-straight alliances, and will not disclose information about students’ participation in these groups to any person without the student’s consent.
… Further, the board will submit a recommendation that protecting student privacy and confidentiality in GSAs be included in the proposed amendments to the School Act.
Here are four immediately obvious concerns with Stirling’s proposed motion:
1. The Law
The law says that parents have a legal right to know what is happening during the school day, including their child’s participation in extracurricular activities at school.
The law does not state anything about this information being contingent on a child’s permission.
For example, the Alberta Family Law Act, SA 2003, c F-4.5 states:
21(4)(a) …each guardian is entitled to be informed of and consulted about and to make all significant decisions affecting the child in the exercise of the powers and responsibilities of guardianship…
21(6) …each guardian may exercise the following powers:
(a) to make day‑to‑day decisions affecting the child, including having the day‑to‑day care and control of the child and supervising the child’s daily activities …
(c) to make decisions about the child’s education, including the nature, extent and place of education and any participation in extracurricular school activities
These laws exist for a reason – for the protection of children. It is audacious of Stirling to suggest that somehow she can cherry-pick whatever laws she wishes to follow when it comes to the care of almost 100,000 children attending Edmonton Public Schools.
The question must be asked: Why is it that only participation in these certain groups should be considered worthy of a special cloak of secrecy that directly violates Alberta’s Family Law Act?
If schools are permitted to operate without the oversight and accountability of parents then it introduces more risk to children, not less.
2. Developmental Needs
Any parent or teacher knows there are vast differences between the developmental needs of a kindergarten student and a high school student. Yet Stirling fails to include any age, maturity or developmental distinctions in her proposed motion.
There are times that students misbehave in class, fail exams, refuse to do their homework or skip school. What would happen if policies required school staff to get a child’s permission first before sharing any of this information with parents?
It is reckless and developmentally inappropriate to insist that the information shared with parents is contingent on the judgement of a child as young as five years of age. Children are not miniature adults and we should not expect them to be.
3. Safety Risks
If Stirling was truly concerned about the privacy of children then she would ensure that the GSA Network, which directed children to sexually graphic material, was not still collecting personal information from K-12 children in order to provide private “support” to them.
Yes, that is actually happening.
“Experts” who publicly provided links to children directing them to sex toys, videos of naked people engaging in sexual acts and advice to “pay for porn” are still using their website to collect the name, school and contact information of K-12 children without any knowledge, consent or oversight of a teacher or parent.
Where is Stirling’s concern about protecting a child’s privacy in that situation?
To ensure the safety of children, parents deserve to know the materials being presented to their children and the people who are accessing their children at anytime during the school day – this is especially true in light of the way GSA leaders have already severely violated the public trust and endangered children.
Is Stirling’s motion based on the false assumption that disclosing information about a child’s participation in GSAs/QSAs could lead to a child being “outed”?
If so, then she needs to re-evaluate her logic.
The very premise of these clubs is to bring together students who identify as LGBT+ alongside students who don’t – hence the name “Gay-Straight Alliance”.
Simply informing anyone of a child’s participation in a GSA does not “out” children since they often attend as allies to support others, not necessarily because they personally identify as an LGBT+ student.
Merely disclosing a student’s participation in a GSA/QSA reveals nothing about a student’s gender or sexuality.
Why the rush?
It is deeply troubling that a school trustee, entrusted with the safety of almost 100,000 children in Edmonton, would propose a motion that so blatantly defies law, logic, developmental age-appropriateness and safety risks.
But even more troubling is the hasty timeline Stirling is attempting to impose in order to limit debate on this important topic.
On Stirling’s blog she stated that she is planning to “request a waiver of notice of motion”.
Normally a regular “notice of motion” provides a month of time for trustees to collect information and consider a motion more fully before having to debate and come to a decision.
To request a waiver of notice of motion means that the debate must happen immediately, with very short notice.
Why the rush for something that would have such drastic consequences for the safety and well-being of children?
URGENT: Action needed
If you live in Edmonton, here is what I urge you to do:
Please take 10-15 minutes sometime TODAY or TOMORROW prior to the Board meeting on Tuesday September 12th to send an email to all the board trustees and the Superintendent (emails listed below) to let them know that it is reckless to consider this motion, especially on such a hasty timeline.
firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
Send this message to others you know living in Edmonton and ask them to do the same.
Understand that the scope of this motion not only impacts Edmonton, but also includes a recommendation that this privacy and confidentiality be legislated by the government into the School Act for all Alberta schools.
Encourage trustees to insist that Stirling bring forward her proposal with enough time to allow for proper public consultation, debate and informed decision making.
Most trustees are seeking re-election in the upcoming October 16th vote. In your message make sure to let them know that your vote is contingent on how they deal with this critical moment.
For the sake of all children, let’s work together to prioritize safety, not secrets.
September 12th Board Meeting results – READ HERE.