We Need Safety, Not Secrets, in Alberta Schools

If you’re a parent, you’ve been scammed.  As with most scams, you probably aren’t even aware. As always, the solution is awareness – in this case, about your local school boards.

Remember the controversial gay-straight alliance (GSA) law the NDP forced on Alberta schools a few years ago? Not gay-straight alliances themselves. We mean the law that forces school staff to keep secrets from parents about their child’s participation in these clubs.

In case you’ve forgotten, here’s a recap:

There appears to be heavily sexualized stuff in GSA materials (here and here for instance). Some of the rhetoric is slightly creepy - especially given that these groups are provided for kids as young as five.  That’s concern enough – but the idea that teachers are not allowed to tell parents that their children have joined a GSA is much, much worse.

As Parents for Choice in Education says parental consent is key. Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education their children will receive.  It’s at the centre of human rights, and part of a UN declaration.  You don’t discuss core family matters without the parent’s approval.  Presenting sexual material without parents even knowing about it is clearly beyond the pale.

The NDP argument that some parents (meaning you) might abuse their kids if they came “out” isn’t really relevant.  We already have other recourse: a teacher who has reason to fear a child might be abused has an obligation to report this to child welfare.  Resources are available. You don’t trample on basic human rights for fear of distant hypotheticals.

You may be thinking to yourself that we’re using the wrong tense.  The NDP were defeated, and Kenney’s UCP government was elected with a mandate to fix the problem. Well, you’re partly right.  But there is a scam at the heart of the discussion.

Here’s the way the scam works: 

  1. NDP legislation forced school boards to pass policies at the school board level which had to include very specific wording that enforced secrecy between school staff and parents.
  2. The UCP government changed the law and removed the legal requirement for school board policies to contain the very specific wording enforcing secrecy.
  3. But the damage was already done. The policies were in place, and almost no public, Catholic or francophone school boards have since removed them.

Net result? Removal of the bad law didn’t solve the problem.  Children as young as five may still be exposed to heavily sexualized material in school through clubs and activities, and teachers are still not allowed to inform the parents. This isn’t provincial law anymore: trustees are choosing to continue this policy.

Click here for the list of school boards that still have secrecy policies. 

Don’t send off an angry Facebook post to your MLA: they can’t solve the problem. It’s not the provincial government’s business to bully their way into dictating local school board policies. That’s what got us into this problem in the first place.  

It is a local issue now. Your local trustees have the power to remove this policy, but so far they’ve chosen not to. That’s the crux: if trustees won’t change these dangerous policies then we need to change our local school trustees.

Part of the problem is that nobody knows who the school board trustees are.  Sure, we elect them every four years.  But who votes for them?  The last general election saw over a million votes cast, but fewer than 186,000 votes were cast for the school boards. That is only about four times as many votes as there are members of the Alberta Teachers’ Association (ATA).  That included places where candidates won with less than 100 votes. A tiny number of people are deciding the fate of all our children.

You can be one of them. With so few people voting, you can have a real, direct impact. 

Parents for Choice in Education (PCE) can help: we’re running seminars on how to be a candidate and how to campaign.  We’ll be publicly asking which candidates like secrecy, and which ones will stand with parents for the safety of their children. We’ll be speaking out at public events.

Here’s what you can do:

  1. Sign PCE’s “Parental Choice Is Key” open letter that we can share with school boards and candidates, as well as the government.
  2. Run for Trustee yourself. Or volunteer to help someone else run for Trustee. This is the time. Sign up for our helpful (free!) webinars and we will teach you more about campaigning.
  3. Donate to support PCE as we provide training seminars for candidates and campaign teams and conduct valuable interviews to equip voters with an understanding of where candidates stand on important issues. As a non-profit organization, PCE depends entirely on the voluntary generosity of concerned citizens like you.
  4. If you find a trustee candidate who aligns with your values, donate to their campaign. They don’t have the big budgets of the political parties – a few dollars make an enormous difference!

The trustee elections that finish this October 18th will be a battle. Well-funded special interest groups and public sector unions fueled by mandatory dues will use their resources to push a radical agenda that undermines school choice and parental authority. Only by standing together can we protect our children and elect trustees who will prioritize safety, not secrets.

It’s time for you to get involved.

As a non-profit organization, Parents for Choice in Education (PCE) depends entirely on the voluntary donations of citizens to carry out its mission of advocating for excellence in education through maximum parental choice. 

To support PCE's ongoing work, please consider donating by cheque or online.  Thank you to each person who helps make this important work possible!