Bill 3, 2012 The Education Act

So, we have a new old government.  The last bill on the floor before the the spring election was Bill 2, 2012, The Education Act.  It was shot down.  Of course the reigning PC party, and education minister at the time, Thomas Lukaszuk, blamed the death of the Bill on the Wildrose Party.  Of course this was a smoke screen.  No Bill brought by the ruling party would die on the floor if the majority of the party holding the majority voted it in.  The reigning party faced more public uproar on the bill than they could afford to ignore going into an election.

Home Schooling parents and religious based private schools were in an uproar over the mention of the Alberta Human Rights Act being included in the Education Act.  The minister of education, himself a Roman Catholic, tried to convince them the bill was not intended to give the government carte blanche to bring home schoolers or religious schools to human rights tribunals simply for teaching their own beliefs in school.  Unfortunately for the education minister, Albertans weren’t that gullible.  So long as the ability was provided for the government to interfere in their childrens’ education, they weren’t going to be shut up.

As a face saving measure the government allowed the bill to die on the floor, blaming the Wildrose Party, who had no control over the bill passing or not passing, of being against anti-bullying legislation and killing the bill.  The excuses brought by the education minister were, without a doubt, nonsense.

Now, seven months later, the PC’s, based on lies and scare tactics, are back in control of the Alberta Legislature.  Bill 3, 2012 is a revitalized Education Bill and is the first bill to be brought for debate in the fall session of the legislative assembly.

This bill, when compared to the previous iteration, Bill 2, is much easier to swallow.  All mentions of the Alberta Human Rights Act have been removed.  The bill, while better, is still not completely acceptable to me, nor should it be to any person who wishes to educate their children at home or in faith based schools.

In a letter to the leader of Her Majesty’s Official Opposition, Danielle Smith, WRP, and Heather Forsythe, MLA, WRP I stated the following, as it relates to Bill 3, 2012.

Here are my feelings on Bill 3.

  • 1.    Much improved over Bill 2 2012
  • 2.    Removal of references to AHRA is a two edged sword
  • 3.    Section 16(1) needs to be amended
  • 4.    Section 31(e) needs to be amended

Breakdown:

The removal of references to the AHRA is a two edged sword in that, while it was a negative threat to homeschoolers, religious based private schools, and separate schools as a whole of retribution by tribunal should they teach creationist science, anti-homosexual doctrines within scripture and their belief systems, or that abortion is not a viable form of birth control, amongst other things, it also protected their rights to hold these opinions and pass them on to their children or students.  I am not sure how to get these protections into the act except:

Section 16(1) states,

16(1) All courses or programs of study and instructional materials

used in a school must reflect the diverse nature and heritage of

society in Alberta, promote understanding and respect for others

and honour and respect the common values and beliefs of

Albertans.

The problem with this is the diverse nature and heritage of society in Alberta includes many whose religious beliefs and traditions do not include the acceptance that many secularist beliefs are truly viable lifestyle options for their children.  The biggest problem is this paragraph allows the rule of the majority to come into affect.  We have already seen that this government sides with the left leaning secularists on ALL issues.  There is no protection for the right leaning, religion guided educators.  While there is no longer the threat of being dragged before a human rights tribunal, the intent of the act is still clearly to force all educators to teach the left wing agenda.

The solution to this is to change the words “beliefs of Albertans” to “diverse beliefs of all Albertans.”  When it comes to religious beliefs, I highly doubt two Albertans share exactly the same beliefs.  We cannot force majority rule on everyone.

The question then arises, What can we teach when it comes to differing opinions or belief systems.  The answer is, add a sub-section regarding teaching intolerance or hate.  While I want the right to teach my children within my belief system, it is also my responsibility to teach them all people don’t hold our beliefs, yet are all equally important.  Therefore, it is unacceptable to hate or discriminate against someone who holds differing beliefs.  By doing this we teach our children our position while also teaching tolerance for those who disagree with us.

Much of this is not a problem for those teaching in schools.  The problem arises for home schools.  When a child in the public school system is taught something reprehensible to their parents’ belief system, they are free to sit around the living room or dinner table and discuss it.  For home schooling situations this is difficult because home schools do not have SCHOOL TIME and HOME TIME.  Home schooling, by its very nature never stops being home, and never stops being school.  Do we have to record family discussions to prove we stated, “Okay, school time is over” before we state our religious values and traditions?  The act does not address this conundrum thereby leaving home schooling parents open to sanctions under the education act which could include losing funding and forcing their children into secularist public schools, though probably as a very last resort.

Example of a situation where problems could potentially arise:

Little Suzy is home schooled.  In order to provide little Suzy with interaction with other children she is enrolled in Tae Kwon Do.  One day little Suzy is chatting with another child who mentions they have two mommies. Little Suzy, as children will do, unashamedly states that her mom and dad say it is a sin to be gay or lesbians.  Little Suzy’s friend is upset and tells her mommies what Suzy said.  Her mommies are politically active lesbians and decide to bring a complaint to the government.  An investigation ensues and it is found that Suzy is home schooled and her parents taught her their religious beliefs.  How do these parents prove that it was done in the context of personal time as opposed to school time when, indeed, school time is all the time as is home time?  Had Little Suzy stated her mommy and daddy taught her that fags and dykes should be killed, this would be an acceptable complaint.  Simply teaching that, under their Christian/Jewish/Muslim beliefs it is wrong to be gay should not be a legitimate complaint in a free society where the CHRA protects religious freedom.  Have we somehow moved to a point where all beliefs are respected as long as they are secular in nature and support the left wing position?  Am I free to be a Christian or a Jew only if I don’t discuss with my children the reprehensible beliefs of secularists?  The government is duty bound to protect my beliefs as well, so long as those beliefs don’t incite hatred or discrimination.

Also included in this is the fact that opting out of education of a sexual nature, sex-ed, or discussions of sexual orientation is not plainly stated in the act.  The act addresses, directly, opting out of discussions or programs related to patriotic or religious topics, but not sexual orientation discussions or those about sex-ed.

Religious and patriotic instruction or exercises

58(1) A board may

(a) prescribe religious instruction to be offered to its students;

(b) prescribe religious exercises for its students;

(c) prescribe patriotic instruction to be offered to its students;

(d) prescribe patriotic exercises for its students;

(e) permit persons other than teachers to provide religious

instruction or exercises to its students.

(2) Where a teacher or other person providing religious instruction

or exercises or a teacher providing patriotic instruction or exercises

receives a written request signed by a parent of a student that the

student be excluded from religious instruction or exercises or

patriotic instruction or exercises, or both, the teacher or other

person shall, in accordance with the request of the parent, permit

the student

(a) to leave the classroom or place where the instruction or

exercises are taking place for the duration of the

instruction or exercises, or

(b) to remain in the classroom or place without taking part in

the instruction or exercises.

The government will argue that this is covered in the AHRA, but reference to the AHRA in the Education Act has been removed.  Thus the double edged sword.

Section 31(e)

31 A student, as a partner in education, has the responsibility to

(a) attend school regularly and punctually,

(b) be ready to learn and actively engage in and diligently

pursue the student’s education,

(c) ensure that the student’s conduct contributes to a

welcoming, caring, respectful and safe learning

environment that respects diversity and fosters a sense of

belonging,

(d) respect the rights of others in the school,

(e) refrain from, report and not tolerate bullying or bullying

behaviour directed toward others in the school, whether or

not it occurs within the school building, during the school

day or by electronic means,

(f) comply with the rules of the school and the policies of the

board,

(g) co-operate with everyone authorized by the board to

provide education programs and other services,

I am certain we all agree bullying is a huge issue in our schools.  I have no problem with legislation dealing with bullying and protecting those who can’t protect themselves.

My problem with this section is the ability of schools to use Section 31(e) in conjunction with Section 36(1)(a) to effectively punish, by way of suspension, a student who fails to report bullying.  In a perfect world a child who reports bullying is a hero.  In the real world that child could become a victim of retribution by the bully or the bully’s friends.  Children do not think the same way we do.  Should we, as a society, force children to live in fear of retribution from a bully or choose to live in fear of retribution from the school.  We are adding pressure to the innocent to make a choice that may be impossible to make.

36(1) A teacher or a principal may suspend a student in

accordance with subsection (2) or (3) if in the opinion of the

teacher or principal

(a) the student has failed to comply with section 31,

There is nothing in the criminal code or the transportation act (that I can find) that forces me to report an accident, fight, or bullying or be charged with a crime.  Why are we holding our children, who don’t always process possible danger or consequences as we do, to a higher standard than we hold adults to?

Example situation:
Sarah, a girl from a visible minority gourd, witnesses Christina, a white girl, being harassed and bullied by a group of other visible minority girls in a school with a very large minority population. Sarah reports this to the school authorities.  The group is immediately suspended from school.  Though the report was allegedly anonymous, word gets back to the group that Sarah is the one who reported them.  Swiftly, school yard justice takes place and Sarah is severely beaten.
– or –
Sarah, out of fear of what could happen if she reports the girls for bullying, steps in to help and is threatened by the group, fails to report what she knows to anyone.  Two days later it is brought to the school’s attention that Sarah watched what happened but said nothing to officials.  Sarah is promptly suspended from school.
Either way, Sarah loses.

In order for ME to support this bill the word “report” would have to be removed from section 36(e).

Further to this, the words “whether or not it occurs within the school building, during school hours or by electronic means” have to go.  The minister of education is assuming for himself and his employees, power over our children outside of the education system.  These areas should be contained in the criminal code, not the education act.  At least then, failing to report would not make the child a criminal or get them suspended from school.

I think Bill 3, 2012 is a definite improvement over Bill 2, 2012.  It simply needs to better address and protect ALL Albertans, and not add stress to our children.  I feel the changes I propose make the act much more effective for both the public school system and home and faith based educators, as well as addressing the topic of any educators teaching any child to hate or discriminate against anyone else.

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