Smith supports 'conscience rights,' has yet to table plan for 'pronoun' policy in schools

'We're trying to avoid turning it into a political hot potato because we want to make sure that kids feel supported [while] also respecting parental rights,' Premier Danielle Smith told the Western Standard.

Smith supports 'conscience rights,' has yet to table plan for 'pronoun' policy in schools
THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick and Facebook/ Danielle Smith
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Several provinces are well on their way to prioritizing parental rights in education. However, a surprise Conservative powerhouse may not enter the fold.

As first reported by the Western Standard, Alberta Premier Danielle Smith has yet to decide whether the government should mandate schools to inform parents if their child changes their name or pronouns.

"I have said that we don't want to politicize these issues because these issues are very private, family issues," she said. "We're trying to avoid turning it into a political hot potato because we want to make sure that kids feel supported [while] also respecting parental rights."

In Saskatchewan and New Brunswick, legislation compelling educators and school administrators to tell parents what their child's pronouns are and if they want to go by another name is in effect.

Only parents can permit their child to use a different first name or pronoun for students under 16. Additionally, schools must keep parents in the loop concerning the sexual health curriculum and whether they want their children not to take part.

In Manitoba, consultations are set to commence on similar legislation just two months before their next provincial election.

Smith appears weary on the topic, having no plans to follow these examples in Alberta despite previously issuing support for 'conscience rights.'

"I haven't had a chance to speak to my caucus since that change was made, but I'm sure it will be a discussion in the coming weeks. We have a caucus retreat in September, so I have to discuss this with the caucus."

Jeff Park, executive director of the Alberta Parents' Union, told Rebel News that regardless of the UCP's position, "Parents are the real experts in their kids. The kids are best served by having their best experts and advocates at the table."

"Of course, a tiny minority of parents are not worthy of this trust. But treating all parents as guilty until proven innocent undermines the confidence parents need if we entrust our most precious children to a school."

Rebel News received a comment from the Education Ministry on its dialogue with parents and educators on parental rights.

"All students, including those in the LGBTQ community, must feel safe at school. Our schools should always be welcoming, caring, respectful and inclusive environments," said Education Minister Demetrios Nicolaides.

"I'm always happy to listen to parents, teachers, students and other professionals to create an inclusive environment for all students while recognizing the fundamental role parents play in the education and development of their children," he added. "It is critical that we focus on what is in the best interests of students."

Park said parents cannot adequately advocate for their children or bring the value of their expertise when school policy dictates withholding information or "lying" to parents is proper.

"We should be especially wary of such policies in Alberta since under what was then called Bill 24, school employees routinely misinterpreted the information they were required to withhold even more broadly than the policies required," he said.

"For example, a 13-year-old boy was taken out of school to a Calgary hotel for a conference on human sexuality without his parent's knowledge. He was given a 50-page flip book about how to have sex and 153 condoms at this conference. The student was not told about sexually transmitted diseases, which his mother had to explain when she found the items," said Park.

The union said these "extreme misapplications" of Bill 24's secrecy requirement were common and harmed children. "These underlying policies still exist at most schools."

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  • By Tamara Ugolini


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