Thursday, September 2, 2010

Should Parents Be Allowed To Foster Ignorance and Bigotry?

While I am still not surprised by what comes out of Alberta, I am surprised at how the following story is not receiving that much coverage. In all of the Google search on Alberta Bill 44 - a bill that would requires parental notification when sexual orientation, religion, or sexual matters are discussed - there were only three pages of results between last year (when the bill was introduced) and yesterday (when the bill went into effect).

The St. Albert Gazette reports....

Bill 44, which passed last year, was the province’s effort to include sexual orientation as a protected ground under its human rights legislation. But the bill included a controversial clause that requires schools to provide parents with advance notice of subject matter that deals primarily and explicitly with religion, human sexuality or sexual orientation.
The law also allows parents to withdraw their children from such teaching, without penalty, and provides a mechanism for complaining to Alberta’s human rights commission.
It came into effect Sept. 1.
“The challenge here is that this is now enacted into law. It makes it much harder to fix,” said master of ceremonies Jan Buterman.
Buterman is a transgendered person who transitioned from living as a woman to living as a man. The substitute teacher made headlines last fall after filing a human rights complaint against Greater St. Albert Catholic Schools, which had notified Buterman that he would be removed from the division’s sub list because he’d chosen to change his gender. That complaint is still winding its way through Alberta’s human rights process, Buterman said.
Regarding Bill 44, it will likely lead to some form of legal challenge when a parent complains, he said.
“It’s going to be a long slug and unfortunately what I suspect is going to happen is we’ll have weird stuff happen that does end up going before human rights tribunals. I suspect that’s what will test it in the end,” Buterman said.
The parental opt-out clause within Bill 44 is like an asterisk beside the extension of legal protection for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transidentified community, protesters said. This sends the message that being anything other than heterosexual is abnormal, they said.
University student Scott McKinney, 22, showed up at the Wednesday protest to “beef up the numbers” and show that not everyone has forgotten about Bill 44. He doesn’t think the government has demonstrated anything positive about the bill.
“Once you start getting parents to yank their kids out of everything they find uncomfortable or to sue teachers over it … that only moves us backwards in society,” he said. “The whole point of advancing is to learn new things. We want to learn about other people.”
Edmonton NDP MLA Rachel Notley called the legislation “regressive” and a black mark on Alberta’s reputation. She said it should be an obligation for children to learn about all aspects of human rights and urged students gathered to continue fighting.
“It’s not a dead issue. It’s not over,” she said. “I promise you that we will continue to fight to get this legislation changed.”
Changes brought by Bill 44 were reflected in a new education guide that was released in late June. The guide identified seven courses that require advance notice by all public, Catholic and charter schools: aboriginal studies 10; career and life management (CALM); health (in grades 4, 5 and 6); health and life skills (in grades 7, 8 and 9); religious ethics 20; religious meanings 20; and world religions 30.
David Keohane, superintendent of Greater St. Albert Catholic Schools, said the division has sent letters to parents informing them that religion permeates education within the system. Besides that, Bill 44 has just reinforced parents’ existing right to opt out, he said.
“It’s really brought to the forefront what the School Act afforded parents all along,” Keohane said.
St. Albert MLA Ken Allred, a Progressive Conservative, felt this week’s protest lacked credibility because of media stories quoting educators as saying the changes brought by Bill 44 aren’t having much impact.
“I’m amazed [that people are protesting] because I’ve read the media coverage in the last few days and everybody is saying it’s no problem,” Allred said. “That’s what I said last year. It’s a flash in the pan. It’s really not a problem.”
It’s too soon to tell from experience whether the changes will create problems, he said, but the acceptance of educators is a good test.
“If some real problems come up then we can take a look at it,” he said.
The protesters in my opinion give a very valid point,. Though I do respect the wishes of parents, by giving this parental notification when it comes to the issue of sexual orientation (an immutable class), we reinforce the concept that their is something "wrong" with being gay. It does reinforce the concept that LGBT people are not "normal".

Would we allow parents to withdraw their children from classes that have to deal with race? How about gender? Truly when does parental notification and withdrawal from classes stop? Though I have made my position on parental rights issues clear before, I will say it again. If a parent is unhappy about what is being taught in the public school...put your money where you mouth is and homeschool. That is legal in Canada, and then you will not have to worry about what your children are being taught.

Kudos to those Albertans who are still protesting and trying to give voice to the issue. Now let us in the online realm share this disturbing legislation alone, and hopefully we can also use our power to change it as well.

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