28 private schools refuse to bow
by Jack Taylor
Since being sworn in as Minister of Education on May 24, 2015 in Alberta, Edmonton-Calder MLA David Eggen, has created waves for private schools. On November 14, he threatened to pull funding ($32.5 million) from 28 private schools (with 4000 students) still holding out from his edict around GSAs (Gay/Straight Alliance clubs).
In his statement, the Minister declared, “I am pleased to report that all public, separate, francophone and charter school authorities have policies that are compliant with the legislation. This means over 98 per cent of kindergarten to Grade 12 students in Alberta are currently protected under compliant policies. Our goal from day one has been to ensure that each and every student has a welcoming, caring, respectful and safe learning environment that respects diversity and fosters a sense of belonging – and we have made great strides toward this goal.
“However, 28 out of 94 accredited, funded private school authorities have still not met requirements under the legislation and I have issued ministerial orders establishing standard policies for these school authorities.” Does accreditation get pulled with funding? The minister outed the names of the 28 schools to media outlets to increase the pressure.
In December 2017, the Act to Support Gay-Straight Alliances (formerly Bill 24) was passed, requiring school authorities (including private schools) to prominently post the law on their websites by June 30, 2018. Letters providing a model policy were sent out, followed by reminders shortly before the deadline.
United Conservative Party (UCP) leader Jason Kenney responded, “I think Minister Eggen should take a very thoughtful approach to this rather than a confrontational one….” The party, while advocating for the fair and equal treatment of children, says parental rights can’t be ignored. Recent policy states that parents should be told if their child joins a club that is religious or sexual in nature.
Several schools and parents launched a challenge to the legislation under the representation of the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms but lost in June. John Carpay, lead council for the JCCF considers the Minister’s tactics to be akin to “bullying and intimidation.” The two groups go back to court Dec. 3.
Jay Cameron, litigation manager for the JCCF, notes that “In September, the Minister gave notice to schools that they cannot include references to “truth”, “male and female”, the Bible, and other religious references, in their Safe and Caring Policies… “The Minister’s Order to impose his will without explanation, regardless of child safety and regardless of parental rights that are protected by the Alberta Bill of Rights and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, suggest this Order is not properly grounded in law….”
Donna Trimble, executive-director of Parents for Choice in Education (representing 11,000 parents in Alberta) has helped lead her group in opposition to Bill 10 (allowing GSA’s in schools) and Bill 24 (prohibiting schools from informing parents about their child’s involvement in a GSA) and against gender fluid ideology by advocating “for an excellent, choice-driven education system.”
Cameron says that for the schools holding out, this is a deeply personal issue. The “government has not put any parameters in place for what a GSA is. The ruling applies to K-12 schools and there are no safeguards as to the material circulated. No adults have to be present and those who are don’t have to be school personnel.”
JCCF is bringing new evidence to the court of appeal on behalf of the hold-out schools who see the legislation as flawed. Cameron says “there have been off site activities with graphic sexual materials. The ideologies being taught as fact, such as gender identity and gender expression, have no basis in science. There is concern that young children with autism or a background of sexual abuse can be harmed.
“For young girls, transgenderism appears to be an observed social contagion. It’s a movement where peers provide significant influence and this can be damaging to young children.” The schools are holding out for legitimate reasons in their concern over child safety.
“Liability is also a legitimate concern for school boards trusted with child safety. If a child goes to an event and is abused ‘is there a liability?’”
With Alberta provincial elections due by May 31, 2019 and the education minister’s threat not being implemented before June 30, 2019 – there seems to be a hope that perhaps a change in government could solve the current impasse. Thus far, the courts and government have not been friendly to Christian parents with concerns for the values being taught to their children.