I can’t decide whether the media is just lazy in their failure to do proper research or whether they are deliberately deceptive in how they are framing Bill 24.
Either way, they discredit themselves and should be ashamed by their blatant disregard for providing accurate information to the public.
Here is an excerpt from a Calgary Herald article called “Stumble on GSAs could come back to haunt Kenney” (originally titled “Misrepresenation (sic) of GSAs muddies debate, traps UCP”), followed by the personal message I sent to its author Mr. Rob Breakenridge and the Calgary Herald Managing Editor.
There was one UCP amendment voted down last week. Yet that motion merely proposed addressing a bizarre conspiratorial hypothetical about GSAs potentially teaching sex ed curriculum and then doing so without parents’ awareness.
Even Kenney himself suggested GSAs are teaching curriculum and even raised the prospect of five-year-olds being caught up in all of this. GSAs, however, are merely peer support groups that exist in various junior high and high schools in Alberta. There are no GSAs for five-year-olds. There is no curriculum being taught in the club or being imposed by the club on the rest of the school.
There seems to be either a lack of understanding or a misrepresentation of what GSAs are. That seems especially unhelpful given some of the usual suspects coming out of the woodwork and warning of kids being indoctrinated in sex clubs and whatnot. This only serves to further poison the debate, and the UCP risks become tainted by it.
The UCP has also suggested Bill 24 imposes a “blanket ban” on any and all parental notification. Not so. Bill 24 merely clarifies that participation in a GSA is information that can only be shared with the students consent. So obviously there are circumstances where that information can be shared with parents, and the bill also contains other exemptions.
It all boils down to this: If a child joins a GSA and says “please don’t tell my parents, I’m afraid of their reaction,” what should happen? The obvious answer is to respect the student’s wishes, which is essentially all Bill 24 does. We have mature minors in this country who have been allowed to make life and death decisions regarding their own medical care, and we’re losing our minds over this?
LETTER TO THE CALGARY HERALD
Dear Mr. Breakenridge,
It is is alarming that you would use your position in the media to perpetuate inaccurate information regarding GSAs and the content of Bill 24.
In light of the many false claims you have made in your column, I would ask that you immediately edit your column to properly reflect facts in regard to GSAs and Bill 24, as well as issue a public apology and follow-up column to help set the record straight.
FALSE CLAIM #1
“GSAs, however, are merely peer support groups that exist in various junior high and high schools in Alberta. There are no GSAs for five-year-olds.”
[Dr. Kristopher] Wells sees [Bil 10] as an important and historic step that made Alberta only the third province in Canada to legislate support for GSAs and the only province whose law imposes no grade restrictions, meaning that GSAs here can be started by students in any grade from elementary to high school.
“Children as young as five and six are coming out, so it’s important that school environments offer supports to students at these younger ages; students are demanding this, and their parents are standing behind them,” Wells said.
2. Read the government-recommended Alberta GSA Network which clearly states that it is intended for K-12 children.
3. Read about the sessions offered at this week’s GSA conference including a session entitled “GSAs and QSAs in Elementary and Middle Schools”
4. Read about the four types of GSAs on pages 30-31 in the Alberta Teachers’ Association GSAs and QSAs in Schools: A Guide for Teachers which makes clear that GSAs are not “merely peer support groups”, but extend to types that push for “educational and social change”.
Most people have little issue with peer-support, however they do have reservations when introducing K-12 clubs with a focus on “political activities” and pushing “organizational change”.
Furthermore, it doesn’t take much research to learn that the type of “social change” being advocated by GSAs is focused on fighting “homophobia” and you can read more about concerns with that stance here.
Your article would be more accurate to say “there are many types of GSAs, including those offering peer support, as well as those characterized by political activities and effecting social change.”
FALSE CLAIM #2:
“The UCP has also suggested Bill 24 imposes a “blanket ban” on any and all parental notification. Not so. Bill 24 merely clarifies that participation in a GSA is information that can only be shared with the students consent.”
1. Read Sec 50.1 of the School Act:
50.1(1) A board shall provide notice to a parent of a student where courses of study, educational programs or instructional materials, or instruction or exercises, include subject-matter that deals primarily and explicitly with religion or human sexuality.
Next, read page 7 of Bill 24 which proposes an amendment to this parental notification/opt-out section of the School Act:
Section 50.1 is amended by adding the following after subsection (3):
4) For greater certainty, this section does not apply with respect to the establishment or operation of a voluntary student organization referred to in section 16.1 or the organizing or holding of an activity referred to in section 16.1.
Read directly from Hansard page 1848-1849 from the Thursday Nov 5 Legislature discussion during Committee of the Whole to learn about the actual reason why UCP MLA Mr. Ellis proposed an amendment to strike that parental notification/opt-out exemption from Bill 24:
Mr. Ellis: Madam Chair, the presence of section 9 in this bill has caused considerable confusion and anxiety for parents across this province. We have heard from many parents who are wondering what this means for their ability to know when their children are learning about sexuality at schools, which is their right under the law. In fact, the NDP appears to acknowledge this right since they are not repealing section 50.1(1) outright. If GSAs aren’t instructing children in any way, there is simply no need to exempt them from this provision. It just doesn’t make sense.
Thankfully, there is a simple, common-sense solution to this problem, which is to strike out section 9 from this bill. That would eliminate any doubt or confusion about the government’s motivations or intentions when it comes to the parental rights enshrined in section 50.1 of the School Act. It would be a significant improvement to this legislation, and I would urge the government to support it. I would also caution the government to seriously consider the implications of defeating this amendment. Exempting GSAs from being subject to section 50.1(1) of the School Act while at the same time claiming that nothing that would require parents to be notified under existing law occurs within GSAs is a contradiction so obvious that it invites suspicion.
Did the government seriously think that nobody would notice when they try to legislate something that they say isn’t a problem in the first place? What are parents supposed to think when your actions are so out of step with your words? Now is the time for the government to reassure Albertans that they have no intention of coming after their rights as parents. Now is the time for the government to prove that it doesn’t have anything up its sleeve.
Once again – and thank you, Madam Chair – I urge the government and all my hon. colleagues in this House to accept our common-sense amendment to Bill 24. Thank you.
The question is obvious and logical: If there is zero intention for GSAs to include “educational programs or instructional materials, or instruction or exercises, include subject-matter that deals primarily and explicitly with religion or human sexuality” then why would this special exemption to circumvent the long-standing parental notification/opt-out even be needed?
2. Read this blog article I wrote in March 2017 and answer this question: If there was no intention to provide sexual content in GSAs then why were so many “community support” links on the “expert” government-recommended GSA Network focused on sexual content?
And why shouldn’t parents be concerned when the very individuals responsible for providing this obscene sexual content are the same ones who stood behind Minister Eggen as he lauded Bill 24 and are pushing for the combination of exemption from parental notification for sexual content, along with unprecedented secrecy?
You refer in your column to a “bizarre conspiratorial hypothetical about GSAs potentially teaching sex ed”.
What is bizzare, not to mention reckless, is that you would entirely disregard the fact that obscene sexual content was provided in the past by GSA “experts” while completely ignoring the very real – not hypothetical – risks associated with allowing these clubs to circumvent parental notification/opt-out provisions on sexual content with zero age restrictions.
FALSE CLAIM #3
“It all boils down to this: If a child joins a GSA and says “please don’t tell my parents, I’m afraid of their reaction,” what should happen? The obvious answer is to respect the student’s wishes, which is essentially all Bill 24 does. We have mature minors in this country who have been allowed to make life and death decisions regarding their own medical care, and we’re losing our minds over this?”
1. Read Bill 24 for yourself. There is no mention of “mature minors” or any exemptions for age, meaning that this legislation applies just as much to five-year-olds as it does to “mature minors”.
If you expect Bill 24 to apply only to “mature minors” then you should be opposing Bill 24 until it includes amendments that specifically define this constraint.
2. Your hyper-focus on one aspect of Bill 24 and claims that “it all boils down to this” demonstrates an blatant disregard for the full content and implications of Bill 24.
Bill 24 changes many aspects of the School Act, and if you want to read more of those concerns from people who have actually taken the time to consider Bill 24 in its entirety then I suggest you read this summary as well as this legal analysis on how Bill 24 is unconstitutional.
Members of the public expect better from those such as yourself whose voice is amplified through mainstream media.
You occupy a role of tremendous importance and responsibility in our public sphere by contributing to the shaping of public perception and I would hope that you feel some sort of obligation to ensure that the information you are providing is based in facts.
Again, in light of the many inaccurate claims you have made in your column, I would ask that you immediately edit your column to properly reflect facts in regard to GSAs and Bill 24, as well as issue a public apology and follow-up column to help set the record straight.
I will be publishing this letter publicly on my Informed Albertans blog later today and will ask that members of the public voice their own concerns to you via email to firstname.lastname@example.org and cc the Calgary Herald’s Managing Editor Martin Hudson at email@example.com.
Theresa Ng, B.Ed
Albertans deserve better than a premier who blatantly lies to them or is so incompetent that she can’t get her facts straight, especially when it comes to the care of children in Alberta schools and the dangerous amendments proposed by Bill 24.
Here is an excerpt from yesterday in the Legislature (see Hansard for Nov 8th, page 1845):
[Ms Notley:]…The fourth objection that was brought forward, Madam Speaker, by the new leader of the party of the members opposite was that somehow this bill will mean that children as young as five will form GSAs. Now, it’s hard to know where to begin with that claim. We know already that Mr. Kenney did not consult with young adults and teenagers who are members of the LGBTQ community. It is clear as well, apparently, that he’s never actually spoken to a fiveyear- old.
For the record, kindergartners aren’t thinking about forming UN clubs, chess clubs, debate clubs, gaming clubs, basketball teams. No, they are typically learning the alphabet and focusing on learning how to tie their shoes . . .
Ms Hoffman: And recess.
Ms Notley: . . . and also recess and wondering if their Elmo will be around during recess. To suggest otherwise is patently ridiculous. Again, I think the level of ridiculousness of that assertion actually shows the desperation to which the leader of the members opposite, Mr. Kenney, will go in order to avoid having an open, honest discussion of the underlying prejudices which stand between him and his ability to support this bill.
Rachel Notley says that it is “ridiculous” to suggest that GSAs are being formed by children as young as five.
Yes, Rachel Notley, it is ridiculous. But it is most assuredly true.
Here is an excerpt from the ATA (Alberta Teachers’ Association) News on December 6th, 2016 focused on Bill 10 and the GSA conference:
[Dr. Kristopher] Wells sees the legislation as an important and historic step that made Alberta only the third province in Canada to legislate support for GSAs and the only province whose law imposes no grade restrictions, meaning that GSAs here can be started by students in any grade from elementary to high school.
“Children as young as five and six are coming out, so it’s important that school environments offer supports to students at these younger ages; students are demanding this, and their parents are standing behind them,” Wells said.
Notley, if she would care to be honest, could also refer to the Alberta GSA Network which continues to be recommended by Alberta Education and clearly states it is intended for K-12 children.
It was Dr. Wells himself who stood directly behind Minister Eggen in the press conference introducing and lauding Bill 24.
How is it that neither the Premier or Education Minister had the good sense to ask Dr. Wells who the legislation would even apply to?
And why do the NDP continue to entrust Dr. Wells with any authority over our education system – especially pertaining to legally enforcing secrecy in schools – when he was the “driving force” behind the site that provided links to children with sex toys and advice to “pay for porn”?
This only proves how little thought and consideration has gone into the writing of Bill 24 and how careless the NDP are when it comes to the care of children in Alberta schools.
If Rachel Notley does indeed believe that kindergarteners should be concerned with the alphabet, recess and focusing on learning how to tie their shoes then it is incumbent upon her to ensure that she amends the law to say so.
As it stands now, Bill 24 – which would legally forbid schools from sharing information with parents about their own child – includes no age restrictions.
In the absence of such restrictions being written into Bill 24, Premier Notley is the one who is not only being ridiculous, but incredibly reckless.
All students and all Albertans – especially our five-year-olds – deserve far better.
*This message is being shared with permission from a Parents for Choice in Education email/blog article.
On Thursday November 2nd, Minister Eggen introduced Bill 24, which would – if passed – enforce secrecy, strip professional decision-making authority, remove sexual content opt-out provisions and replace a parent’s loving care with the strong arm of the state, all under the coercion, consultation and supervision of a select few.
After reading the proposed legislation, we have identified the following five key concerns.
1) Enforced secrecy with no stated exceptions
Bill 24 states that parent notification would be limited only to the fact that a club will be established or an associated school-wide activity will take place:
(6) The principal is responsible for ensuring that notification, if any, respecting a voluntary student organization or an activity referred to in subsection (1) is limited to the fact of the establishment of the organization or the holding of the activity (Page 2-Bill 24)
This means that school staff would be legally forbidden to share information with parents when it comes to their own individual child’s participation in these clubs or activities.
Legislating this one-size-fits-all approach ignores the unique, local circumstances where school staff must have the professional decision-making authority to accommodate the genuine diversity of student needs in Alberta schools, including, but not limited to:
– age (this proposed legislation applies to students as young as five)
– past trauma
– special needs (for example, autism)
– mental health (self harm or suicidal ideation)
– faith or cultural considerations
– language barriers for English language learners
2) Notification/opt-out for sexual content removed for student-led clubs and activities
Currently, section 50.1(1) of the School Act states that:
A board shall provide notice to a parent of a student where courses of study, educational programs or instructional materials, or instruction or exercises, include subject-matter that deals primarily and explicitly with religion or human sexuality.
However, Bill 24 would amend this section to exempt student organizations or activities from this same notification/opt-out provision:
Section 50.1 is amended by adding the following after subsection (3): (4) For greater certainty, this section does not apply with respect to the establishment or operation of a voluntary student organization referred to in section 16.1 or the organizing or holding of an activity referred to in section 16.1. (Page 7-Bill 24)
This means that if your K-12 child is exposed to sexual content during GSA clubs or GSA sponsored school activities you, the parent, would be kept in the dark.
This is extremely alarming, given that the Alberta GSA Network, organized by the provincial “experts” at the Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services (iSMSS), directed K-12 children to community supports with sexually graphic material and resources.
Disturbingly, these are the very same individuals pushing the government for these legislative changes to isolate children.
Albertans deserve to know that experts from iSMSS have continued to deem resources such as the Sex A-Z Zebra Cards as appropriate for certain populations of youth, even after concerns were raised regarding access to this specific resource via the GSA Network website.
3) Bill 24 enforces not just clubs, but also school “activities”
Bill 24 amendments would not only pertain to clubs in schools, but would also extend to associated school-wide activities, including assemblies, plays and performances.
Principals are forced to “immediately grant permission” to these activities at the school or risk legal repercussions if they do not comply, thereby stripping principals of professional decision-making authority in schools:
Section 16.1 is amended (a) in subsection (1) (i) by repealing clause (a) and substituting the following: (a) immediately grant permission for the establishment of the student organization or the holding of the activity at the school, and (ii) in clause (b) by adding “subject to subsection (4), within a reasonable time from the date that the principal receives the request” before “designate”; (b) in subsection (3) by adding “or activity” after “the organization” (Page 1-Bill 24)
4) Replaces school governance oversight with the demands of the Ministry of Education
Bill 24 erodes the authority of governing bodies, such as elected school board trustees, superintendents, parent councils and the guidance of faith leaders, in relation to the actions of the principal of a school, forcing the principal to ignore traditional advisors and accept the direction of the government:
Section 45.1(3) and (4)
(4) A policy established under subsection (2) must contain a distinct portion that addresses the board’s responsibilities under section 16.1, and the distinct portion of the policy (a) must not contain provisions that conflict with or are inconsistent with this section or section 16.1, and in particular must not contain provisions that would:
(ii) require a principal to obtain the approval of the superintendent or board or to follow other administrative processes before carrying out functions under section 16.1,
5) The government usurps the power to re-write school board policies
Bill 24 would empower the Education Minister to simply amend or replace any policies of any school board that does not comply with the Ministry’s demands, or to impose any terms or conditions of the Minister. This strips the autonomy of local school boards, making it impossible for them to be genuinely responsive to the needs of their local students, parents and staff.
If passed, this sweeping state power could enforce policy changes on schools that are explicitly hostile to the foundational raison d’etre of unique school settings. To do so would be to strip these settings of the very framework upon which they exist, thereby destroying genuine school choice. Freedom of choice is meaningless if all choices are forced to be the same.
(8) If a board does not establish a policy or a code of conduct under subsection (2), or in the opinion of the Minister a policy or a code of conduct established under subsection (2) does not meet the requirements under subsections (3), (4), (5) or (6), as applicable, the Minister may, by order, do one or both of the following: (a) establish a policy or code of conduct for, or add to or replace a part of a policy or code of conduct of, a board; (b) impose any additional terms or conditions the Minister considers appropriate. (Page 6-Bill 24)
HOW DID WE GET HERE?
Parents for Choice in Education has been repeatedly sounding the alarm around the dangers children face in schools when parents are sidelined and schools are stripped of professional authority.
In March 2015, when Bill 10 passed in under four hours with almost unanimous support, PCE was one of very few organizations that recognized that this new legislation had set our schools, families, and most importantly, children, on a dangerous course in Alberta.
As said by John Carpay, from the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, “governments never strip citizens of fundamental freedoms without pointing to a good cause as the justification”.
The justification for Bill 10 was that sexual and gender minority children were at a higher risk of bullying, substance abuse, homelessness, self harm and suicide and needed the strong arm of law to protect them.
Though anti-bullying protocols and GSA clubs already existed in Alberta schools, including some faith-based schools, Bill 10 was passed. It stripped school autonomy by enforcing Gay Straight Alliances in every school at the command of a single child. No protections were added to Bill 10 to enshrine parental notification and engagement to ensure they remained the primary caregiver for their own children whenever possible.
PCE recognised at the time that while the intention to care for sexual and gender minority children in school was noble, that dangers were overlooked. There was no consideration of the risks associated with counselling children without sufficient oversight or prioritizing the involvement of their most important support systems – their families.
Secondarily, what many didn’t and continue to not recognise, is that when rights and freedoms of schools and families are removed, the government gains increasing powers of coercion and control.
Despite Minister Eggen’s claims that he is introducing Bill 24 after having engaged in a collaborative process with schools, many schools never actually received any feedback on the policies they provided. Minister Eggen continues to govern through the media and ignore the real concerns of schools and families across Alberta.
Since the passage of Bill 10, we have seen a relentless and systematic encroachment upon the rights of parents and the independence of schools and their staff to engage in local, responsive and respectful care and education of their own students in partnership with parents.
Some in the media and the NDP government are claiming Bill 24 is a reaction to recent political leadership changes. However, this is a lie. For several years now activists have insisted that the “patchwork” of school policies produced by Bill 10 and the Guidelines for Best Practices were insufficient. Bill 24 is the long awaited result.
While PCE has never opposed peer support groups in schools where the children, staff and parents deem such support systems appropriate, we recognized that Bill 10 – which became section 16.1 of the School Act – stripped authority from the adults in schools, placing total control into the hands of children as young as five.
Into the void created by the sidelining of professionals and parents in schools, activists have taken up shop. Standing behind Minister Eggen as he offered Bill 24 to the media on November 2, 2017, was none other than Dr. Kristopher Wells – the individual who was a key influence in the promotion and content of Bill 10 (Hansard for March 10, 2015, pages 541, 545 and 548), co-authored the Guidelines for Best Practices and was the “driving force” behind the Alberta GSA Network which directed K-12 children to sexually graphic material.
It is essential the parents of Alberta stand against the bullying tactics of the Ministry of Education to reclaim their position as the primary caregivers and educators of their children and insist that schools be given the freedom to partner with parents to ensure the highest standard of safety and care for all Alberta students.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
CALL the Education Minister’s office at 780 427 5010.
CONTACT YOUR MLA: MLAs will be debating and potentially voting on Bill 24, as early as next week.
It is essential you make your voices heard! Communicate your concerns through email or phone call (CLICK HERE to find your MLA’s contact info).
Make sure to cc MLA Mark Smith, the new United Conservative Party Education Critic on all email communications (firstname.lastname@example.org).
SIGN the PCE Parental Consent is Key open letter HERE.
SHARE this information with others so they are aware of these alarming legislative changes that will impact children in Alberta.
DONATE: Become a monthly core supporter of Parents for Choice in Education for as little as $10 or $20 a month so we can continue to speak on behalf of you, the many thousands of Alberta parents, who are increasingly concerned about the direction of legislation and school board policies on the safety of their children in Alberta schools. Go to our DONATE page and look for the “Monthly Donation” button.
Thank you to each one of you for taking action to ensure the genuine safety of children in Alberta schools by speaking out about these concerns regarding Bill 24.
For more background information, articles, columns and videos on this topic please visit the “Be Informed” section of our website.
Let’s recap a series of events from several months ago.
In March 2017 I published a blog article exposing how the GSA Network website, organized by the Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services (iSMSS) at the University of Alberta, included many community support links for K-12 children that led directly to sexually graphic material.
There were links to buy sex toys, images of naked men being tied up and flogged and advice to “pay for porn” – all easily accessible with 1-2 clicks from the government-funded and recommended site.
Following massive public outrage, the government ensured links were removed.
However, despite the fact that iSMSS severely violated the public trust and endangered the safety of children, the government still entrusts them with a tremendous position of trust, authority and direct access to K-12 students in Alberta schools.
And even more alarming is that politicians continue to flock to events to raise money for this organization.
Just a week after the Wildrose abruptly and without explanation backed out of tabling 700+ letters expressing concerns about the sexually graphic material, Brian Jean openly defended his staffer’s decision to officially represent the Wildrose at the Pride Run and Walk in Edmonton, a fundraiser for iSMSS.
Jean even stated that those who spoke out against Wildrose representation at this iSMSS fundraiser, “don’t belong in any political party in Alberta.”
Prior to that event I sent an email to Jean and Wildrose staffers to ensure they were aware that the Pride Run and Walk specifically raised money for iSMSS. But that email was ignored, just like my other messages have been (see here and here).
Then in September Doug Schweitzer, leadership candidate for the United Conservative Party, alongside Interim leader Nathan Cooper and MLAs Leela Aheer & Rick Fraser publicly showcased their attendance at the Premier’s Pride Brunch to raise money for Campy Fyrefly, also run by iSMSS.
As I vote today for a new leader of the United Conservative Party I will do so on behalf of the children of this province and their safety.
I will not risk a leader who would condone the funneling of money to an organization who provided this obscene material to children, either intentionally or through negligent incompetence.
Politicians who openly fundraise for organizations that provide such horrendously inappropriate material to K-12 students should be held accountable.
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!)
Those in Alberta who genuinely care for the well-being of children need to listen and they need to act.
It is time to move beyond superficial parroted talking points and consider the very real and profound risks to children when a government proposes legislation that would forbid schools from sharing information about a child with a child’s own parents.
The two links below confront this issue.
1. “Prioritize student safety, not secrets”: a short 3 minute video published by Parents for Choice in Education (PCE). It was my honour to be invited by PCE as the first presenter for their new video series.
2. Radio interview by Danielle Smith on News Talk 770 with invited guests Donna Trimble, Executive Director of PCE, and the Minister of Education, David Eggen, discussing this important topic. You can be the judge as to who made the stronger case.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
1. VOTE WISELY: On October 16th it is more important than ever to elect trustees who will advocate on behalf of families and represent your concerns for student safety to Alberta Education. I urge you to be informed about the candidates in your area and vote wisely.
CLICK HERE to access PCE’s excellent Trustee Voter Guide resource, which provides information on 200+ candidates in 16 different areas of Alberta. Learn where your candidates stand on this important issue.
2. CONTACT YOUR MLA: Fall sitting at the legislature begins October 30thand our MLAs will be responsible for voting for or against the School Act amendments proposed by the Education Minister. Encourage your MLA to think more deeply about the risks to children if these proposed changes are allowed to become law.
CLICK HERE to find your MLA’s contact information.
3. SHARE this information with family and friends. Most people have no idea about this proposed new legislation and the risks children will face as a result.
*This message is being shared with permission from a Parents for Choice in Education email sent out this evening.
Minister of Education David Eggen has officially announced he will use the coercive strong-arm of the government to legally enforce secrecy upon all schools in Alberta, confirming new legislation is coming this fall through amendments to the School Act.
REAL RISKS BEING IGNORED
By legislating the removal of loving parents in the lives of children in school, we remove a school’s ability to be responsive to the needs of each individual child in each unique circumstance.
Parents cannot be supportive if they are not included. Therefore, the priority must be on assisting K-12 children to bring their families into the conversation, rather than legislating secrecy and leaving good parents in the dark.
As written in an August 2017 Calgary Herald column by PCE Executive Director Donna Trimble:
This type of legislation also creates the risk of putting school staff in an untenable position where they will feel legally bound to follow legislation, rather than allowing staff to be responsive to the needs of children on a case-by-case basis.
According to a CBC article published today, there are also serious concerns being raised by legal experts.
On behalf of parents and citizens across the province of Alberta, we demand to know:
WHAT YOU CAN DO
CALL: Flood Minister Eggen’s phone lines (780 427 5010) and let him know that governing by dictates rather than proper consultation and evidence-based decision making will endanger children, not help them.
VOTE WISELY: It is more important than ever to elect courageous school trustees and a new UCP leader who will take a stand for families.
SIGN the Parental Consent is Key open letter HERE .
SHARE this information with others so they are aware of these alarming legislative changes that will impact children in Alberta.
DONATE: Become a monthly core supporter of Parents for Choice in Education for as little as $10 or $20 a month so we can continue to speak on behalf of you, the many thousands of Alberta parents, who are increasingly concerned about the direction of legislation and school board policies on the safety of their children in Alberta schools. Go to our DONATE page and click on the “Monthly Donation” button.
Thank you for your continued support to ensure the genuine safety of children in Alberta schools.