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Teachers speaking out: Alberta, don’t be duped

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 education.minister@gov.ab.ca, chestermere.rockyview@assembly.ab.ca, calgary.lougheed@assembly.ab.ca

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!)

 

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The real danger for Alberta kids

door with blocked tape resampled

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.

 

Changing the law to enforce secrecy in schools

*This message is being shared with permission from a Parents for Choice in Education email sent out this evening. 

Ed Minister Journal article privacy rules2

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:

By not engaging the parents of these children — who the ATA admits are at a high risk for self-harm and suicide — a child’s history is all but ignored. Critical information is never considered, even though it may be integral to a child’s care. Past trauma and autism are two examples.

By alienating parents and guardians, the child’s support systems become dangerously narrowed. The child is cut off from important supports connected to their home, including their doctors and pediatricians, extended family, psychologists, psychiatrists, special needs supports, and faith communities.

If the citizens of Alberta truly care about vulnerable children, then we must insist that nuance be returned to the conversation. We must insist the care for children be expanded, not narrowed. We must insist communication be the first goal, and stop the enforcement of this unprecedented secrecy in our children’s schools.  [READ MORE]

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 Thursday, Calgary lawyer John Carpay, president of the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, said Alberta law requires that parents be “fully informed about all aspects of their children’s education,” including their involvement in extra-curricular activities.

“The notion that children have privacy rights in relation to their own parents is false,” Carpay said in a statement. “In fact, parents have a right to know what their children are doing at school. To prohibit parents from being informed, absent exceptional circumstances, violates parents’ legal rights and responsibilities for their children.”  [READ MORE]

 

On behalf of parents and citizens across the province of Alberta, we demand to know:

What evidence demonstrates that isolating K-12 children from their own parents is going to help children more than it will hurt them?

What evidence demonstrates that independent schools fall short in providing a safe and caring learning environment for all students?

Why has there been so little opportunity for public consultation when it comes to these massive changes to legislation that will impact every school  in this province?

Why is there no mention of age limits to these legal changes that would mean children as young as 5 in Alberta schools could be counselled without the awareness of their own loving parents?

 

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.

On Thursday PCE published an overview of the four UCP leadership candidates and on Sunday October 1st we will be publishing our School Trustee Voter’s Guide.

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.

For more information and to hear PCE in the news, watch this Global News video and read this Edmonton Journal article.

Brian Jean: ‘Here for Albertans’? Not if he insults concerned parents.

Brian Jean, here for Albertans

Dear Brian Jean,

A couple days ago I published a letter on my blog that I wrote to you in January 2017 following a meeting we had together.

In that letter I had offered you an opportunity to clarify several statements you made at our meeting, which I found deeply concerning.

Your staffers promised me a reply. I followed up by email. And by phone.

But nine months have gone by. And a reply never came. Not even a form letter.

Since I published the letter publicly, have you tried to finally offer some response of clarification or a reason for the oversight? 

No.

In fact, here is a comment someone posted publicly on Facebook:

Brian Jean response to my letter

If this was actually written by you or your team then you have proven, yet again, that you are totally unwilling to address the legitimate concerns of Albertans when it comes to the education of children in this province.

Furthermore, your response is not only incredibly disrespectful, but also demonstrates a complete misrepresentation of the facts.

 

DELEGATE FOR UNITY

My meeting with you was in January 2017, a full 2 months before I became a Jason Kenney delegate. 

In my letter (which you obviously didn’t read very closely) I applauded you for your willingness to unify the conservative parties. Unity would not have happened if not for delegates like myself making the effort to step up and support Jason Kenney. You should be thanking me.

Your claims insinuating some supposed “leadership politics” are just an attempt to divert the conversation so you can detract and deflect from the real issues and questions I asked – which you still refuse to respond to.

For the record, it doesn’t matter if you’re Wildrose, PC, NDP, UCP, XYZ or Whatever Party. I will work with any politician, of any political stripe, who is willing to listen.

When it comes to the blatant violation of Alberta Education’s own standards and compromising the safety of children in this province, every politician who truly cares for our education system should be demanding answers.

Unfortunately too many spineless and gutless politicians care more about their reputations in the eyes of Leftist bullies than they actually care about Alberta kids. 

 

THE LETTERS

The meeting I had with you in January had absolutely nothing to do with the sexually graphic material, which I didn’t even find until two months later.

Yet to bring up those letters in such a dismissive manner and claim too many of them were “not fit for polite company” is an unbelievable insult to Albertans across the province and truly exposes how little you actually care for the safety of children.

Concerned parents, teachers, students and grandparents took a tremendous amount of time and effort to personally write and mail those letters to voice their heartfelt concerns for Alberta children.

You know what is not “fit for polite company”, Mr. Jean?

You can click on this link so you can see for yourself some of the content I found that was just 1-2 clicks off a government-funded and recommended website for K-12 children.

THAT is what is not fit for polite company. And certainly not fit for children as young as five.

How dare you pretend that the letters written by concerned parents and citizens across this province are the problem while you continue to turn a blind eye to the real issues!

Did you know the organization and the individuals who unapologetically provided that content to K-12 children are still happily doing their presentations, accessing vulnerable children in schools and having massive amounts of authority over our education system?

You know the real travesty, Mr. Jean?

You have personally helped keep them there.

No matter how clear your education platform may look in writing, it does not make any difference if it is not demonstrated by your actions.

So here are your choices:

1) Email me to confirm that whoever posted that comment was in error and share publicly that you would never reply so disrespectfully to the citizens and children of this province.  

2) Or, email me to confirm that you did in fact write that comment and that it was a hasty, poorly written response and you will publicly apologize.

If you are unable or unwilling to take either one of these steps, then your refusal to act will speak far louder than any hollow words you claim as your slogan and education platform.

Brian Jean: A letter unanswered

A letter unanswered Brian Jean

Rarely have I felt so belittled and disrespected. After volunteering hundreds upon hundreds of hours defending our families and our freedoms against government overreach, Mr. Jean had the audacity to tell me to my face that “you need to do more” – suggesting he still won’t take a stand for our children!  

Those were the words I sent to a friend, shortly after an hour-long meeting with Brian Jean, MLA Leela Aheer and three Wildrose staffers on January 27th, 2017.

I never wrote anything publicly about that meeting. There didn’t seem to be a point in sharing about such an unproductive hour.

That is, until now.

On October 28th members of the United Conservative Party (UCP) will vote for a new leader, a person who could potentially become the next premier of this province.

And it is essential that people are as informed as possible when they make that vote.

Even after such a disappointing meeting, I still wanted to give Brian Jean the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps he mis-spoke. Perhaps I misunderstood.

I stayed awake most of that cold January night, typing a letter to Brian Jean to explain my concerns and ask specific questions. The letter would offer him the opportunity to clarify.

His staffers assured me I would receive a reply in a couple of weeks. But even after a follow-up email and a phone call to their office, I still received nothing.

It’s been nine months. The letter remains unanswered.

More concerns have piled up in the meantime, but those can wait for another day.

For now, I invite you to read the letter for yourself.

Use it to inform your vote as to who is best suited for the leadership of the UCP.

And if you haven’t already done so, invest in a $10 UCP membership before September 29th so you can have a vote in this important decision.

Now, more than ever, we need a leader who will consistently prioritize the education of our next generation without faltering or wavering in his commitment to ensure the highest standard of care for our children.

Choose wisely.

=====================================================

 

January 31st, 2017

Dear Mr. Jean:

First, I commend xxxx  for his prompt scheduling of the meeting on Friday, as well as the warm welcome and respectful attention of Leela, xxxx and xxxx during our meeting in Calgary to discuss concerns related to our education system.  I am deeply grateful to each of them.

However, while I am very appreciative that you could join us for part of the meeting, your comments and tone left me feeling far more frustrated and disheartened.

Allow me to explain.

#1: “Accelerated change”

You commented that the pace of change to our education system has “accelerated” under the NDP.  I agree. Yet part of that successful acceleration has been the lack of resistance they have faced in the Legislature.

It seems the NDP know that as long as they frame this issue as “LGBTQ rights” that the Wildrose won’t touch it. After all, who wants to be burned by the “lake of fire” twice?  The NDP must be thrilled with how effectively their messaging efforts have incapacitated the Wildrose Opposition. This paralysis has allowed the NDP to grant their allies a free pass to our education system when it comes to the imposition of Gender Unicorn ideology and advocacy onto every school, child and family in Alberta.

It is essential the Wildrose demonstrates the strength to reframe and confront the real issues at stake, namely that the NDP government is eroding individual freedoms, imposing blatant government over-reach into the sphere of the family and violating Alberta Education’s own standards. 

xxxx and I represent tens of thousands of frustrated Albertans who are your base of conservative grassroots support. These Albertans feel alienated and exasperated by the lack of representation in the Legislature on this issue. How can you presume that you will personally be entrusted with leadership of any future conservative government when the Wildrose under your leadership does not seem to have the fortitude to publicly and consistently represent foundational conservative principles?

Question: Will you reframe and confront the NDP’s false messaging and represent principled conservative leadership by defending individual freedom and limited government in the context of these critical education issues?

 

#2: “You need to do more”

During our meeting you claimed we “need to do more”.

Let me be clear: We have written thousands of letters, mobilized 4,500+  people to show up at simultaneous rallies in Edmonton and Calgary and collected tens of thousands of petition signatures.  We had a thousand brave souls who took to Twitter for our #protectABkids campaign. I have been on the front lines, taking a very public role in the media spotlight to vocally criticize the massive changes to legislation, policies and teaching resources.

Question: As someone who has personally sacrificed thousands of volunteer hours to this issue, I insist that you define and quantify exactly what you mean by needing to “do more”. What standard must we meet in order to finally gain public representation by our elected conservative politicians in this province?  Please be specific.

 

#3: “Only 22 MLAs”

You explained that you have a “limited budget” and “only 22 MLAs”.

First, I have a $0 budget and 0 MLAs and have personally managed to make plenty of noise on this issue. Yet as a citizen I remain relatively limited with how much influence I can have. How much stronger we would be at raising public awareness and ensuring the NDP are held accountable for their brazen actions if we had our citizen efforts combined with the efforts of 22 MLAs who actually represented those same concerns inside the Legislature?

At our meeting on Friday you seemed to portray your role in opposition as a position of weakness. Yet you have incredible power – power that has been entrusted to you by those who elected you to represent them! 

Why do you have some misguided notion that standing up to the lobby groups and media will be easier if/when you form government?  Ask Rachel Notley. Being in opposition is easy compared to being government – in government everyone attacks you and you have more power to lose.

If you feel that 22 MLAs cannot influence any change then why bother showing up at work at all?  It certainly hasn’t stopped you from raising a ruckus on the carbon tax. In fact, I applaud you for successfully holding the NDP’s feet to the fire on that front – even with “only 22 MLAs”.

Question: Aren’t our children, our freedoms and the integrity of our education system as important to you as our economy? Why can’t the efforts of your 22 MLAs be equally invested into holding the NDP accountable on all education concerns as well?

 

#4. “Why aren’t you going to court?”

If only it were that simple.

Going to court is not the only way to change poorly-written legislation. Strong democracies elect representatives to their Legislature who are supposed to understand it is their responsibility to write and amend legislation to best reflect the needs of the people. Strong democracies ensure transparency, accountability and oversight and prevent too much power being vested into the hands of a relatively few appointed court judges.

An unwillingness of legislators to actually do their job leads to an over-reliance on the courts which will ultimately undermine our democratic freedoms.  It is unprincipled conservative parties and lazy democracies who forfeit rights and freedoms into the hands of a few unelected individuals within the court system.

Also, as xxxx has explained, court action may not produce favourable results. The Alberta bench is increasingly occupied by “progressive” judges that lack the fortitude to accurately apply the law and arrive at an unpopular decision. The risk of bad precedents is very real. If no reasonable judge is found at the Queen’s Bench of Court of Appeal, then a case must be brought before the Supreme Court, where there is no guarantee the case will even be accepted. Even if it is, 4 years will have passed in the meantime – by which time lazy legislators will have allowed who knows what else to infiltrate our education system.

Amending s. 16.1 of the School Act and revising policies is a faster and more certain way to achieve freedom and justice in the area of education. Many conservatives are aware of the ideological bias on the bench and understand that court action is full of risk. They should and do look to their elected representatives more than to unelected judges with zero public accountability who may not respect their values or freedoms.

Going to court will also not solve the foundational problems. It may put some reasonable limits on poorly written legislation but it will not change the resources and policies which are currently being imposed on our education system which, as I shared during our meeting, replace critical thinking and respect for multiple perspectives with political activism/advocacy, coercion and intimidation.  Going to court is not a reason for legislators – who are supposed to be accountable to the electorate – to abdicate their responsibility.

 

Concluding words

During our meeting I was taken aback at your tone – which felt more condescending/dismissive than constructive/respectful – and how little you responded to any of the concerns I raised. Frankly all I heard were a series of excuses for not standing up for our freedoms and the integrity of our education system.

Be assured that I take my role very seriously in representing the tens of thousands of Albertans who are still waiting for an elected representative to defend their freedoms and families when it comes to these education concerns.

I also care deeply about the integrity of our education system and will continue to vocally and publicly speak out until necessary changes are made.

A strong party with strong leadership will not be ashamed to represent its own principles.

Why can’t you pursue a stance on education with the same fervour that you pursue the oil sands and pipelines? 

When you demonstrate that you are only occasionally willing to defend your principles then your principles become no more than deceptive and hollow rhetoric. 

If you actually expect people to take you seriously then you need to believe that you can inflict serious change on every portfolio no matter whether you form government or the opposition.  We, the people of Alberta, rely on you to publicly and vocally call out the government anytime it attempts to over-reach. Make it loud!

I applaud your recent announcement of being willing to unify into a single conservative party and agree it is essential in order to ensure the defeat of the NDP in 2019. But if you do head into any potential leadership race, you need to understand that your response to these education issues and concerns, as well as your track record of addressing them, will become extremely important to grassroots conservatives who are your voting base.

That said, I hope you will take the time to respond meaningfully to the questions which were left unresolved from our meeting and which I have raised throughout this letter, as well as the attached overview document I have provided.

I look forward to working together to resolve these questions and concerns in order to ensure our freedoms, and the standards of our education system, are upheld in our great province.

Sincerely,
Theresa

 

UPDATES

September 25th: Brian Jean: ‘Here for Albertans’? Not if he insults concerned parents.

 

 

Stirling’s secrecy motion defeated in Edmonton schools, for now

EPSB board meeting vote Sept 12 2017

The results are in: Three courageous trustees stood for families and for the safety of all children by defeating the secrecy motion put forward by Trustee Bridget Stirling.

Stirling’s use of the rare “waiver of notice of motion” – never used before in this 4 year trustee term – would have forced a hasty debate and vote with only 6 days notice, instead of allowing for the full month that is normally required.

Because of its rushed timeline, procedure states that a “waiver of notice of motion” requires unanimous support from the nine trustees in order to even proceed to debate.

With 6 trustees in favour and 3 opposed, the waiver of notice of motion was defeated.

This is in no small part because of you, the caring parents and citizens of Edmonton.

Thank you to those who responded on a very short timeline.  In less than 48 hours you sent an influx of messages of concern to trustees, urging them to consider the issue more deeply. Had you not sent in your messages, they never would have known the magnitude of public concern.

Thank you to trustees Orville Chubb (Ward C), Ken Gibson (Ward E) and Sherry Adams (Ward I) who heard your concerns and wisely decided that a decision so important deserves proper consultation, analysis and debate beyond just six days notice in order to make the most effective and informed decision for the care of students.   Let them know you noticed and that you appreciate their vote.

They took a stand for you and your children.

Now you need to take a stand for them.

Because I guarantee that the attacks will now come.

Unfortunately those who raise reasonable and legitimate concerns are all too often labelled as being extremist, anti-everything and against children.

Yet nothing could be farther from the truth.

It is precisely because we care for the safety of all children that we continue to speak out in support of families, transparency, accountability and a thoughtful, balanced approach.

It is because we love our children that we will fight to be part of their lives, even when certain elected representatives feel others are more suited for the job.

Long-term health

Trustee Bridget Stirling may be well-meaning, but her presumption that children’s health outcomes would be improved by enforcing blanket motions of secrecy and isolation, is wrong.

A child simply having a space to talk with peers and gain support in schools can be beneficial.

However, if we truly care about the long-term health of any child then we should not stop there.

Our priority must always be to move toward engaging sources of support beyond just the school, especially when children are struggling and at-risk. Most often, this will be the child’s family, but could also include health professionals, counsellors from agencies beyond the school, etc.

If a child relies solely on a peer-support group within the four walls of a school, then what happens when that child moves to a different school or a different city?

A child with multiple sources of support will have much stronger long-term success than a child who has relied on only one source of support.

Open-ness, transparency, and a focus on mediation and enhancing communication leads to health.

Fostering an attitude of secrecy and an inherent mistrust of others does the opposite.

All hands on deck

Trustees Chubb, Gibson and Adams, along with other candidates who are taking a strong stand for informed decision-making, families and the safety of children, need your support more than ever.

This next month will be intense. It will be a trustee election like no other.

The decision of which candidates end up forming our next trustee boards in the province is completely up to you.

According to Bridget’s tweet tonight she plans to still be on the Board after the Oct. 16th election and will continue to push for her privacy and confidentiality motion.

Electors in Edmonton’s Ward G will decide whether that happens or not.

If you truly care about the education of children in this province then don’t sit on the sidelines as we lead up to the important October 16th election.

Learn about the candidates in your school district (refer to the list being compiled by Parents for Choice in Education).

And, most importantly, step up to support the candidates who will best represent your concerns and values:

1. Sign-up as a volunteer.
2. Donate money to print signs and brochures.
3. Door-knock.
4. Vote
5. Tell every single person you know to do the same.

It doesn’t even matter if a candidate is in your area. This is the time we need all hands on deck, no matter where you live.

And my last piece of advice is this: You will likely hear media reports trying to smear the courageous individuals who do care about the safety of children and the importance of families. I urge you to bypass the media spin and make a decision based on what candidates have to say for themselves.

One way you can learn where candidates stand is to sign up on the homepage of Parents for Choice in Education so you will receive candidate questionnaire responses delivered directly to your inbox as soon as they are released on October 1st.

So there you have it, Albertans.

The power is in your hands. If you don’t like how your trustee voted then it’s time to replace them.

This motion – and the fact that Stirling intentionally connected it to the Minister Eggen’s recent decision to amend the School Act – only goes to show that if you do want to be part of your child’s life then you will need to fight for it.

Now more than ever.

BREAKING NEWS: Will Edmonton Public Schools break the law & block parents?

door with blocked tape resampled

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.

4. Logic

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.

cheryl.johner@epsb.ca, michelle.draper@epsb.ca, orville.chubb@epsb.ca, ray.martin@epsb.ca, ken.gibson@epsb.ca, michael.janz@epsb.ca, bridget.stirling@epsb.ca, nathan.ip@epsb.ca, sherry.adams@epsb.ca, darrel.robertson@epsb.ca

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.

UPDATE

September 12th Board Meeting results – READ HERE.