Education Minister Adriana LaGrange, seen speaking to Eastview Middle School students last winter, is under fire for insisting school boards invite local MLAs and other officials to graduation ceremonies. (File photo by Advocate staff)

Education Minister LaGrange accused of ‘bullying’ over grad ceremonies

Education Minister Adriana LaGrange is voicing concerns about MLAs being excluded from virtual graduation ceremonies.

On Thursday, LaGrange, the MLA for Red Deer-North, sent a message to school board chairs, outlining her displeasure with the possibility of political representatives being left out of graduation ceremonies.

“It has come to my attention that some school divisions have not been allowing elected officials, notably members of the legislative assembly, to participate in digital or alternative graduation ceremonies this year,” LaGrange wrote in the note.

“It is my expectation that you will work diligently to meaningfully include your local elected officials, whether that be an MLA, MP or a local councillor … Please remember these graduation ceremonies are about our children, not our political views.”

Sarah Hoffman, the NDP’s education critic, said the message was akin to bullying by LaGrange.

“At the same time Adriana LaGrange is claiming to support choice in education, she is bullying schools who choose not to invite MLAs,” Hoffman said.

“LaGrange has cut hundreds of millions of dollars out of school budgets, laid off more than 20,000 education workers, pushed hundreds of dollars of new fees onto parents, and taken away crucial support for students with special needs.

“The minister continues to lie about these cuts. She made this political, and now she can see the results. If anything, this demonstrates how dishonest she has been in claiming that school boards support her cuts. They don’t.”

Colin Aitchison, press secretary for the education minister, said graduation ceremonies are supposed to be a chance for people to come together, regardless of political affiliation.

“A long-standing practice in our education system is to invite locally elected officials from all levels of government, regardless of political affiliation, to participate in graduation ceremonies, provide greetings and to provide scrolls and certificates of congratulations from their level of government to the graduating class,” Aitchison wrote in an email Friday.

“The letter was sent to simply remind school divisions that if they are hosting a graduation through an alternative means, there should be ways to accommodate attendance from local councillors, MLAs, or MPs.”

In her letter, LaGrange added she hopes her message puts an end to complaints from ministers, elected officials and parents.

“It is my hope that after this email is sent, I will no longer be receiving complains about graduation ceremonies from elected officials from any level of government, or from parents expecting to see their local representative included in these milestone moments,” she wrote.

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