Open Letter to NDP Education Minister David Eggen

Sent: January 26, 2016

Dear Education Minister David Eggen,

I serve as Executive Director of Parents for Choice in Education (PCE), a non-profit and non-partisan citizens’ group.

I write with respect to the deep concerns of Albertans regarding the unconstitutional Alberta legislation which resulted in School Act 16.1, and took effect in June 2015, as a result of Bill 10.  These changes are a very serious threat to parental rights in education, and to the religious freedom of all Albertans. I also write to inform you that I have been inundated with communications since the release of the Education Guidelines for Best Practices, which are being described by you, Minister Eggen, more as ‘requirements’ than ‘guidelines’.

Schools should have the autonomy to develop their own anti-bullying plans – for submission March.31, 2016 – which include guidelines that are appropriate to the foundations of each individual school while ensuring the safety of children. It is not the role of government to discern the minutia of school activities, social environment, curriculum, or culture. It is the role of government, via basic skills testing, to ensure that children are meeting basic skill outcomes year on year, and no more.

Bill 10, now in force, requires all schools in Alberta to set up and maintain anti-bullying clubs known as “Gay-Straight Alliances” or “Queer-Straight Alliances”, at the request of a single student.  Under Bill 10, neither principals nor teachers nor parents have any right to refuse such a request.  Now the Education Guidelines for Best Practices – if required – will result in schools having no right to set up their own alternative anti-bullying plans or programs that are consistent with the school’s faith, beliefs and teachings.  Further, the Alberta government expressly denies parents the right to even know whether their son or daughter has joined a Gay-Straight Alliance or Queer-Straight Alliance, or even how the child self-identifies (including name change), and therefore renders them unable to support their child going forward.

PCE believes that the protection of students in schools is an essential and fundamental foundation to proper education.  PCE also understands that the genuine safety and protection of children in schools is only possible if individual schools, with the input and involvement of parents, have the freedom to use various methods, of their own choosing, to deal with bullying in schools.

Parents must be respected as the primary caregivers and decision makers as relates to a child’s education. This is dependent on notification. A parent must sign a permission form for a child to engage in sport, or school field trips. How can the NDP government believe that not notifying parents with regards to discussions around sexual identity is safe or beneficial to a child?

Only those adults closely engaged in the education of their pupils can truly understand the dynamics of the school population and the unique needs of its students. With this understanding, the administration and parents in each school are in the best position to offer anti-bullying support that will meet the needs of each unique dynamic, whether the bullying problem is in relation to sexual orientation or anything else (e.g. weight; appearance; skin colour; intelligence; etc.)  The only way children will truly be kept safe is if the parents and other adults most closely engaged in their care and education are the decision makers, not distant government beauracrats and activists.

Under Bill 10, and the Guidelines for Best Practices, parents have no say as to whether or not a Gay-Straight Alliance is set up in the school attended by their children, or what types of activities may be permitted in such a setting, nor will they be notified if their child begins to explore such themes and ideas personally or in a group.  The mandatory establishment of such clubs in schools, and the installation of anti-bullying programs based on the ‘guidelines’ without the knowledge of parents nor the input of the school itself, is at best short-sighted, and at worst dangerous for the very children these clubs are intended to protect. 

Please reconsider the direction the NDP is taking in relation to anti-bullying clubs and guidelines in Alberta. Amend Bill 10 so as to return parents to their rightful position as the primary caregivers of their children, and allow schools the autonomy to implement the guidelines that fit their school environment –with permission of parents- when producing their anti-bullying plans. This is the only way to genuinely create safe and welcoming schools for our children.

Yours sincerely, 

Donna Trimble

Executive Director

Parents for Choice in Education

cc'd: Education Critic Wildrose Mark Smith, Premier Rachel Notley, and interim PC Leader Ric McIver