How can you respond to false assurances about new laws in Alberta schools?

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Knowing the facts of the law from Part A of this series "How did Bill 10 & 24 change law in Alberta schools?" will equip you to effectively and factually respond to the following common excuses and false assurances that will come your way.

Let’s empower ourselves to take back the conversation - in the media and politics, at our schools and in our communities - by insisting upon deeper conversations, based on the facts instead of shallow rhetoric and false assumptions.

 

EXCUSE 1:

“Don’t worry, schools will make sure there’s a staff member in charge of the club and activities so they are appropriate for kids and consistent with the school’s mission and identity.”

RESPONSE: The specific text of the law makes clear that legal authority over these clubs and activities belongs to K-12 children, not adults: principals must “immediately grant permission” and staff liaisons/facilitators may only “facilitate” or “assist”, not direct or lead.

Therefore, school staff do not have the legal authority to ensure the content, resources and facilitators of these clubs and activities are consistent with the school’s mission and identity or even age-appropriate to the kids who attend. 

Any claims otherwise are wishful thinking at best and intentional falsehood at worst. 

In addition, regardless of who is appointed as the staff liaison, a growing influence over these clubs and activities is coming from a network of adults from external organizations who are accessing K-12 children through these groups (for example, see here and here) and even soliciting children's personal information to "support" them privately without any parental awareness.

Note that in a situation that a staff member is not available to serve as a staff liaison that the Minister of Education can appoint a “responsible adult” from outside of the school, without any specification that the adult be a certified teacher.

More information available in Part A, Facts 3, 4, 5, 7, 8 and 9. 

 

EXCUSE 2:

“These laws don’t apply to our school.”

RESPONSE: These laws apply to all schools because the School Act governs all school authorities in the province of Alberta. 

Even home education programs must, by law, exist under the authority of a brick and mortar private/independent school or a school board (Catholic or public).

More information available in Part A, Facts 1 and 2.

 

EXCUSE 3:

“Kids in our school would never ask for that kind of club or those kinds of activities.”

RESPONSE: No school principal or staff member can ever guarantee that a club or activity will not be requested by a student. 

Once a club or activity is requested - even by a single student - then the principal and staff members must comply with the directives of the student(s).

Any claims otherwise are wishful thinking. 

More information available in Part A, Facts 1 through 6.

 

EXCUSE 4:

“These laws are needed because LGBTQ+ kids have to be protected from parents who may reject or hurt them."

RESPONSE: 

It is heartbreaking that there are families who struggle in our province to care for and love their children. However, Alberta has long had important safe guards in place through the Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act which make it the positive duty of every citizen, including school staff, to reach out to Child and Youth Services if a child has suffered harm. In fact, a failure to report is an offence under the Act.

The danger of legislation brought in through Bill 24 is that secrecy is enforced for everyone, including the vast majority of parents who will love and care for their children through their struggles, including struggles with sexuality and gender.

We know children are healthiest and most successful when their parents are actively involved and engaged. Therefore, we must prioritize mediation, not secrecy, when it comes to helping families navigate conversations about these sensitive and difficult topics.

Furthermore, applying a rule based on an exception is largely ineffective at accomplishing any goal.

Consider the following analogy:

If someone came up to you asking for your car keys because there are some bad drivers on the road, would you give up your car keys? If that person insisted they wanted to keep all people safe on the roads and the only way to do so was if you and everyone else gave up their car keys, would you be convinced and hand them your car keys?

Most likely you would insist that you are a good driver and have every right to keep your car keys. Yes, bad drivers should have their car keys taken away, but you are not a bad driver.

This analogy highlights the unreasonable and ineffective approach taken by the Alberta government to justify a rule based on an exception. 

Unfortunately, while most people would not dream about giving up their car keys based on this thinking, far too many have been duped by the same faulty reasoning when it applies to the care of their own children.

 

EXCUSE 5:

“Schools can guide the naming, activities and resources of these clubs and even ensure they follow certain teachings.”

RESPONSE: The specific text of the law makes clear that K-12 children have sole legal authority over these clubs and activities, including the naming of these clubs, and the activities, teachings and resources that are made available. 

These activities and resources are increasingly influenced and directed by a growing industry of external organizations who are marketing themselves as “support” both directly to children (see here and here for just two examples) as well as to the schools they attend.

More information available in Part A, Facts 3, 4, 5, 7,  8 and 10.

 

EXCUSE 6:

“GSAs are harmless peer support groups for teenagers - stop making a big deal about kids getting the support they need.”

RESPONSE: This excuse makes many false assumptions.

The law does not define the content and parameters of GSAs, so we look to the GSA experts influencing Alberta’s education system who describe GSAs as follows:

 

A) GSAs are intended for students from kindergarten age and up.

In the Dec. 6th , 2016 Alberta Teachers’ Association News, GSA expert and advocate Dr. Kristopher Wells states Bill 10 was “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.”

He adds that “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”.

Also, the government-recommended Alberta GSA Network clearly states that it is intended for K-12 children.

 

B) GSAs allow for peer-support, as well as activism and political activities.

Four types of GSAs are described on pages 30-31 in the Alberta Teachers' Association Guide for Teachers which define GSAs not merely as peer support groups, but also as clubs that are intended to push for “educational and social change” through “political activities” and pushing “outreach activities” with examples of “diversity days, staff training, [and] inclusive curriculum”.

Clearly, GSAs are not simply peer-support. Some GSAs push for political and social change which is activism that may be hostile to the beliefs and values of some students and their families or in conflict with the culture of the school.

 

C) GSAs allow an exemption for sexual content to K-12 children and GSA "experts" have previously offered "support" links to K-12 children with harmful exposure graphic sexual material.

This special exemption is especially concerning in light of the fact that those standing behind the Minister of Education, celebrating the introduction of Bill 24, included individuals from the very organization which provided community support links to K-12 children containing sexually graphic material.

The content of these links included videos of naked adults participating in sexual acts, ads for sex toys, highly descriptive oral sex techniques and advice to “pay for porn” and “visit a group masturbation night at your local sex club.”

More information available in Part A, Facts 3, 4 and 10.

 

EXCUSE 7:

“Let’s just wait for the regulations”

RESPONSE: The law is the law. Regulations are not laws, and as such can be changed by a stroke of a pen, with no recourse, accountability or transparency.  We should not put our faith in regulatory promises that can be broken on a whim.

 

EXCUSE 8:

“Just put the words into the 'Safe and Caring' policy to make the government happy and keep a strong Statement of Faith instead.  Fly under the radar and do your own thing. Problem solved.  It's not like the government is going to know everything that goes on in thousands of schools across the province.”

RESPONSE:
First, parents must question the integrity of schools:

  1. whose policies contradict their faith statement (which shows a lack of conviction and inconsistency of belief)
  2. who post policies that they claim they will not follow (which demonstrates dishonesty)

Second, it is an incorrect and risky assumption that a school could "fly under the radar", especially in light of children being told by the Education Minister to contact his office directly so his staff can help "ensure [their] rights are being respected" and the fact that an industry of external organizations are accessing children to do the same (see here and here for just two examples).

Does a school really want a media firestorm surrounding them when it is discovered that they have denied a child their legal rights, especially if those rights were clearly written and promised into policy?  

More information available in Part A, Fact 11.

 

EXCUSE 9:

“We can’t do anything. It’s the law. Go talk to ____________  (teacher, principal, MLA, trustee, etc).”

RESPONSE: This is a classic ‘passing the buck’ response to get rid of the conversation. However, when a government strips the autonomy of schools and parental involvement this is everyone’s responsibility.

When schools and politicians avoid discussion of these important changes they allow parents and citizens to assume nothing has changed.  This is a dangerous lie of omission.

Anyone complicit in contributing to parents being left in the dark is perpetuating the danger that children face in our schools when they do not get the support they need.

We encourage parents and citizens to understand the sections of law explained in the Toolkit and use this understanding to then educate teachers, principals, MLAs, trustees etc as to the serious consequences that must be addressed by this poorly-written legislation.  To get more actively engaged in making an impact, check out PCE’s “Take Action” menu from our homepage

 

EXCUSE 10:

“If my kids can’t talk to me, I’d want them to have someone they could talk to at school.”

RESPONSE: This excuse leaves many important questions unanswered:

  • Who are these unknown people that you are trusting so wholeheartedly instead of yourself when it comes to the care of your own children?
  • What external organizations or community members are accessing your child while they are at school that you have no knowledge of? What are the motivations, expertise and intentions of these unknown adults?
  • Would you drop your child off anywhere else with no idea of who will be accessing them or what they will be exposed to?

In other situations, caring parents would engage in due diligence to ensure that those entrusted with the care of their children would have the proper credentials and expertise to effectively provide the care their children need.  Why would this situation be any different? 

Caring and loving parents prioritize safety, not secrets.

Furthermore, this excuse completely misses the fact that until the passage of Bill 24 school staff have always had the professional autonomy to talk to children and then, based on their perception of the individual circumstances and needs of the child, discern if and when parents should be drawn into the conversation.

Now that Bill 24 has passed into law, school staff have been stripped of their professional decision-making capacity by a government who has legally forbidden them to share certain information with parents (see Part A, Fact 9 stating that "notification, if any, respecting a voluntary student organization or an activity... is limited to the fact of the establishment of the organization or the holding of the activity.")

Even if the teachers and school staff feel that it is in the K-12 child's best interest for the parent to be informed about a child's struggles with sexuality and gender shared at a club and/or their involvement in a certain activity, they are legally forbidden to do so. 


 

Use the links below to access the other two sections of this three-part series, return to the introduction page, or download a printable version:

Part A: How did Bill 10 & 24 change law in Alberta schools?

Part B: What are the "Safe and Caring" policies for your child's school? 

Main introduction page: Know how new laws impact Alberta schools & how to respond

To download a printable version of the entire PCE Toolkit, CLICK HERE

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