In May 2016 I had the honour and privilege of representing the voice of concerned teachers in this province when I spoke to a crowd of over 2,500+ Albertans at the Parents for Choice in Education peaceful rally at the Alberta Legislature.
It was an incredible afternoon.
We had expected hundreds to attend. Instead, thousands showed up – at least 2,500 in Edmonton and 2,300 in Calgary.
Even the small group of activist hecklers who disrespectfully and aggressively shouted at us (ironic from those who apparently espouse “safe and caring schools” and “anti-bullying”) didn’t ruin that day.
When I saw the tremendous media amplification yesterday focused on Dr. Wells with his “new” Trans Youth Health Survey results (see here, here, here and here), I immediately thought of the rally speech I gave almost 18 months ago.
Unfortunately, once again, there are attempts to manipulate public opinion by taking “research” findings out of context in order to draw illogical conclusions.
No doubt this is a deliberate attempt to provide justification for the new legislation that our Education Minister has already promised will come.
Sadly, most of the media who lauded this research as “new” conveniently ignored the fact that the data is not new at all.
The data is actually 3 to 4 years old and has just been re-packaged by isolating the Alberta survey responses from the original nation-wide survey done between Oct 2013 and May 2014.
Of significant note is that of the 114 survey respondents who live in Alberta, only 36% (approx. 41 respondents) were actually school-age (14-18 years old), which begs the question of how these findings could even be considered transferable to decisions impacting all school age children, including those as young as five.
As I addressed in my May 2016 rally speech, the problem then – as it is now – is that our government is basing decisions on information taken out of context and feeding widespread public misperception.
Most alarmingly, the government continues to proceed on this reckless path despite significant concerns being voiced by teachers themselves, as I share in my rally speech.
With fall session starting on Oct 30th I expect that School Act amendments will be passed through in short order with a majority NDP government.
I encourage you to send this link to your MLA proactively (find your MLA here) and let them know they best not even attempt to claim this “research” as justification for legislation that would isolate children, as young as five, from their own parents.
When you send your message, cc the Education Minister, as well as former education critics Leela Aheer (WR) and Dave Rodney (PC) at email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
You may think that MLAs would know this information, but I’ve spoken to enough politicians to know that they often don’t know unless we tell them. Most of them do not have the time to delve into the research themselves and (very sadly) often rely on media coverage to form their perception.
Alberta, don’t be duped.
May 14, 2016 – TRANSCRIPT
Theresa Ng’s speech at the Parents for Choice in Education rally
As an elementary teacher for many years and a parent to 3 young children, what I read in the Guidelines alarmed me. I started writing a blog called Informed Albertans and began networking with thousands of people across the province and have spent every day since then focused on spreading awareness on this issue.
Let me assure you that Bill 10 and the Guidelines for “best practices” go far beyond bathrooms, anti-bullying, safe and caring schools and accommodations for some vulnerable students.
In fact, as a teacher, a parent, a citizen and a reasonable, rational human being, I know that if it was just about protection of vulnerable kids we could have solved this whole issue a long time ago.
And I don’t know how many of you are in the crowd today, but I would say thousands – thousands of you would not have to have been here today.
But, here we are.
The government says that the Guidelines are “research based”. And in February people across the province started receiving letters from their MLAs – form letters actually because I got lots of them forwarded to me – assuring them:
“What our guidelines have identified is that not all students are supported in their homes when it comes to their expressed gender identity. A 2015 Canadian Trans Youth Health Survey found that 70 per cent of respondents felt their family didn’t understand them and one in three did not have an adult who they could discuss their problems with. Nearly two-thirds of those surveyed reported self-harm in the past year and more than one-in-three said they had attempted suicide.
Schools can be the place where students struggling at home can feel safe. It’s our legal responsibility to support them as best we can.”
Now these things are serious and I want to acknowledge that. Because that is not what our message is. That is serious and we all agree on that. And we are not in any way trying to diminish their struggles.
But, the problem is the MLAs failed to read the rest of the research document.
Because that research also stated, and I quote from page 2:
- “Family relationships are important”
- “trans youth generally reported feeling their parents cared about them”
- “When youth had high levels of parent support and family connectedness, they reported much better health.”
And as the first key recommendation in that document: “NUMBER ONE: Support for families of trans youth.”
Families. Families are a key source of support. And that was number one identified in their research.
Now let me make something very clear. Many parents and educators agree that LGBTQ youth are a vulnerable population. That is not in question. However, what we disagree with are what the government is proposing as a solution.
Not once is there any recommendation based on the research cited by these MLAs to suggest that students are best served by teachers and schools intentionally withholding information from their families.
Why, why would the government suggest that students must be protected from their #1 key source of support?
It doesn’t make sense.
And not only that, but this survey was based on people ages 14-25. How is that developmentally appropriate to transfer to every single K-12 student in our province!?
Our government is basing their conclusions – and defending their conclusions – on the basis of research data that is out of context and is feeding widespread public misperception that schools somehow have to protect their children from their parents.
And THAT is a problem.
If the government wants to talk about research, let’s look at the workload study that was released by the Alberta Teachers’ Association which clearly demonstrated how teachers are already pressured to work many additional hours.
How exactly do teachers feel about being “voluntold” that their responsibilities now include the role of private confidante to K-12 students regarding student sexuality?
Aren’t there red flags about that suggestion?
I hear privately from teachers across the province and I have permission from two of them to share their messages.
These teachers are not allowed to speak publicly, but here is what they want the government and you, the people of Alberta, to know.
The first one says:
We have teachers burning out like never before to try to meet all the demands of not only the academic [needs]… but now [also] the emotional and post traumatic needs that our students are bringing to school whether they are from another (often war torn) country and can’t speak English, are dealing with the dysfunctions of home life (as we’ve seen a sharp rise in family break down and single parent families), and managing the confusion of sexual identity…
I am sick and tired of hearing children taught to “explore” their gender, question it and experiment with their sexuality, and I’ve witnessed first hand how children and youth are spiralling down into depression and emotional instability from a government who refuses to acknowledge the importance of protecting the innocence of all children and instead expose them to lifestyles that kids are not emotionally ready to talk about, never mind process internally.
It takes weeks for a counsellor to come in for 1 hour to talk and listen to child… [and] the hours spent as a teacher trying to support the emotional well being of individual students has sky rocketed… We’ve had to take on the role of being a psychologist and spend hours typing log notes.”
There is so much on teacher’s plates already.
And here are the words of another teacher. She says:
Let’s say a teacher encounters a child struggling with their gender identity (or struggling in any other way!). Should they:
1. speak with the parents, and refer the child and the family to a PROFESSIONAL counsellor with experience and credentials or
2. set up the child with a random adult who may possibly have an agenda but no professional credentials, in a club of some sort, and do so WITHOUT informing the parent?!!
David Eggen says his guidelines will save lives.
I say that his guidelines will anger parents and undermine democracy.
Perhaps a few kids credit clubs for helping their self esteem, and there are many emotional stories being told. It’s true that kids are often badly bullied in school, for gender issues among other things.
However, we should not be removing parental rights due to emotional rhetoric.
The fact remains that teachers in a free society answer to the parents. PERIOD. And every good teacher knows this.
And you know what? Both teachers separately ended with very similar words – a call to action to you the people of Alberta, to you the parents.
And this is what they said. They said:
“Parents now, more than ever before HAVE to be vocal and have to DEMAND that the government give back parent rights to be actively involved in all decisions related to their children.
But parents must also take action TO BE advocates and support the well being of their children instead of leaving it up to teachers and administrators.”
So, parents and people of Alberta – it is up to us.
We must speak out on behalf of our children, our families AND our teachers across this province.
So, answer me– let’s shout this message loud and clear.
Who do you think should parent your child?
The government ? (crowd shouted NO!)
Your child’s teacher? (crowd shouted NO!)
Or the PARENTS!? (crowd shouted YES!)