Updated: ‘It’s a fight, not a debate,’ says social media expert after online furor forces cancellation of Blackfalds school dance

Climate change and the oil and gas sector were at the heart of a debate that led to the cancellation of a Blackfalds’ school’s family dance.

Wolf Creek Public Schools superintendent Jayson Lovell said remarks on a local Facebook forum called into question a lesson taught by a teacher at Iron Ridge Intermediate Campus.

Lovell said a parent believed the teacher was espousing anti oil and gas values, and presenting only one side of the story.

“They put out their thoughts and opinions on social media,” he said, adding the school did not have the opportunity to engage with the parent.

The social media post started off with comments on both sides of the issues, but the conversation escalated, said Lovell.

“It went to threats: go to the school and the dance, which was planned for Thursday evening, and confront the teacher and cause a disturbance at that event, and it grew very quickly.”

As a result, the division did not believe it was wise to proceed with the school’s annual Christmas family dance, citing safety concerns.

Lovell said the Blackfalds RCMP investigated and issued a ticket under the School Act for disturbing or interrupting the proceedings of a school.

Lovell said he has investigated what was taught in that Grade 4 social studies class.

“We had an administrator in the school who had happened to sit in on that lesson,” the superintendent said, adding the teacher was leading the class according to the curriculum, presenting both sides of the topic.

The students were learning about critical thinking, which meant they had to learn both sides: climate change and the energy sector.

“Critical thinking is a foundational component of the curriculum, and to become a critical thinker, you have to look at all sides of an issue, not just one side, and then you yourself decide, judge for yourself.”

Coincidentally, the district had scheduled a session for Tuesday to outline best social media practices to parents.

Lacombe’s Joe Whitbread, co-founder of Jo(e) Social Media Inc., who will be hosting the session, said kids are losing out in the wars that parents are fighting on social media.

Whitbread said the fight is about a divisive culture that exists online, with “one side wanting to be right, and another side wanting to be right, and the complete neglect of compassion or empathy to either side.

“It’s a fight, not a debate.”

Whitbread said adults express their opinions on social media under the guise of freedom of speech. That’s one of the uses of social media, he explains, but in doing so, they’re showing “an unkindness that kids are usually kept away from.”

“Our kids are watching their mentors, the adults in their life, use foul language, poor etiquette and be downright unkind on social media.”

Tuesday’s social media session is slated for 6:30 p.m. at Iron Ridge Intermediate Campus.

Lovell said the school division is hoping to have the family dance in the new year.



mamta.lulla@reddeeradvocate.com

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