Early this week, the message to include parents was brought to the Alberta Legislature. Thousands in Medicine Hat had been shut out by our elected Trustees. The local Media, and NDP activists took to deliberately twisting that message to suggest that parents wanted the ability to ‘out’ their children. That is not the case. Parents have been silenced by municipal, and provincial government, and anyone that stands up is smeared and harassed, or even threatened. No large media would even talk about what is going on in Medicine Hat, so we were left with little options.
There is a lot of history to why parents believe their School Board isn’t listening, and even actively suppressing parental involvement. So I’ve listed here a brief timeline. The appeal on March 13th was a culmination of all the actions that were taken by the Board. At any time they could have turned around and given open opportunity for genuine conversation, and parents would have accepted it. They unfortunately chose not to. The Board has not been working for the people, but for the provincial government. As public servants, they represent the will of the parents to the education ministry, not the will of the education ministry to the parents. They are bound to follow the law, but beyond the law, their actions are meant to be the will of the electorate. The democratic majority.
Shortly after the decision was rendered last Thursday April 13th, 2017, Board chair Rick Massini shared the following comments in a chat news article:
“Massini says the board has been diligent with involving parents in the drafting of the policies, noting the policy has been discussed at the school council level, and a school council representative sits on the SD76 board.
“Parents in effect have direct access to policy development through their representative from the council of school councils,” he said.
The board also had three public meetings and a town hall in regards to the LGBTQ policy, says Massini.
Massini says SD76 is currently in the process of updating its LGBTQ policies, which it does each year. Massini adds the board is responsible for representing all students.”
Now these statements are effectually true, but they are not the whole truth. The 3 public meetings Massini spoke of were board meetings. All of which the public was not allowed to speak, save for the delegations that were given 5 minutes instead of the 15 granted in policy. The delegates were also not allowed to ask questions of the board, only answer if a question is asked of them. These meetings were ‘open’ to the public, as is the law, but the public was not open to engage the board. The only reason the public was even able to speak on March 29th, 2016, was because those that came refused to just sit by while the Board passed a policy that put their children at risk, and over extended the authority of the Board and Administration.
The whole truth about the so called “Town Hall,” is that it was in fact NOT a town hall. District Superintendent Mark Davidson, fresh to his new position, and during my first time meeting him, stated, “This is not a Town Hall.” But don’t take my definition of a Town Hall, here is the definition of a Town Hall courtesy of Merriam-Webster (emphasis mine)
“: an event at which a public official or political candidate addresses an audience by answering questions posed by individual members Town halls have lost some of their spontaneity. The 80 or so undecided voters chosen for Tuesday’s event must submit their questions in advance and moderator Candy Crowley of CNN will decide which people to call on. — Connie Cass”
The public meeting in May, which was sprung on residents of Medicine Hat with little notice, (less than what is outlined in the School Act,) did not allow for any answers to questions, and did not allow for direct communication between Trustees and the Public. It told the public what questions were being asked, and how to answer them. Not a single person who went to that meeting honestly called it a Town Hall. Not even Mark Davidson.
But this is how the current culture in government and education system works. They take a word, or phrase that has a common understanding, and make up a new meaning for it. They conveniently don’t tell the person that is hearing or reading it, that the meaning they think it has, does not in fact have the meaning intended. This is deception without a lie. It is the perverse manipulation of language to fool someone into accepting what was said.
We saw this with how the NDP government twisted the message of ‘include parents.’ The media and the NDP government took those words, applied their own made up meanings and understanding, and said that the message was “out the gays.” This is intentional deception, and unbecoming of those in authority. Whether journalist, trustee, or deputy premier, and might I say, a violation of oaths.
But let us get back to Massini’s comments. There is just one more truth I would like to point out. The ‘review’ of 622. There are a couple little tid bits that were left out. 1. As part of this years review, the Board wants to take out the yearly review on the policy, and 2. the only change they are making is that they will “without coercion, encourage children to speak to parents.” Also of note, is that at no time during this process did the Board ask parents what they thought should be changed. Not one of the parent councils that I heard from even conveyed that that was an option.
On the parent council’s being part of the process. I think you should know, that by the Trustees own admission some of the parent councils were not even going to bring it up with parents that the policy was open for review. One trustee engaged in ‘informing’ a parent council that ‘their is nothing to be concerned with’ in the policy, and to just pass it. One parent council didn’t even know that procedures existed for the policy, and were implemented in August of 2016. This is not even considering the fact that most, if not all parent councils have employees of the district sitting on them, and they ARE NOT ALLOWED to disagree with the board or they may have their employment terminated.
A public meeting, with a committee being formed, in a formal process under the School Act, is the ONLY way parents in Medicine Hat have any hope of being openly and honestly heard and to hold the Board accountable to that feedback.
Ask yourself this. Why does the board not want to let parents speak to them, why do they not want to ANSWER parents on the record, and why do they want to suppress discussion of and remove the yearly review of the first controversial policy in the districts history.
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