School board to debate Bill 44

The Red Deer Public School board will discuss a controversial government bill that would allow parents to seek human rights violations concerning the teaching of religion, sexuality or sexual orientation in classrooms.

The Red Deer Public School board will discuss a controversial government bill that would allow parents to seek human rights violations concerning the teaching of religion, sexuality or sexual orientation in classrooms.

School trustees will review and decide how to respond to Bill 44: Human Rights, Citizenship and Multiculturalism Amendment Act during their regular school board meeting, which begins at 7 p.m. on Wednesday at 4747 53rd St.

Lindsay Blackett, minister of Culture and Community Spirit, has sponsored the recently introduced bill which has been given first reading. Second reading was adjourned late last week in the legislature.

Public school chairman Bill Stuebing believes it would only take a handful of human rights complaints across Alberta to stifle student discussions in classrooms.

“There’s the potential to do some real damage to the education system and that’s the big concern,” he said.

Parents already have rights under the School Act to have their children pulled from topics concerning religion and human sexuality.

Bill 44 would now allow parents to make a human rights complaint if they felt they weren’t given advance notice, Stuebing said.

Section 11.1 of Bill 44 would require advance notice to be give to a parent of how and when a controversial issue might be taught.

Stuebing said parents can be advised in advance of curriculum topics, but it’s not easy to do this when classroom discussions suddenly veer towards these.

“The potential is for a lot of teachers to be really gun-shy.”

In a May 4 letter to Blackett, Alberta School Boards Association President Heather Wellwood said the School Act and Alberta Education policies already allow parents to have their child excluded from instruction regarding religion and human sexuality.

“In our view, this is sufficient to address any parental concerns,” Wellwood said. “ASBA is not aware of any specific cases in which a parent’s wishes weren’t honoured.”

The ASBA, Alberta School Councils’ Association, Alberta Teachers’ Association and College of Alberta School Superintendents, issued a joint news release last week against Bill 44.

“Most parents are not looking to drag teachers or school boards before the Alberta Human Rights Commission,” said Marillyn Sheptycki, president of the school councils group. “Most parents are looking for common sense to prevail.”

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