Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Alberta teachers slam planned human rights changes

This is from CTV.

Surely sex and religion is going to come up in social studies and history without their being a special lesson on the subjects. This is truly bizarre. I wonder if Roman Catholic or other religious denominational schools will have to keep sending parents notices of the religious lessons they are teaching! The public school system is secular and should not be catering to the sensibilities of religious minorities or even majorities for that matter.

Alberta teachers slam planned human rights changes
Updated Tue. May. 5 2009 10:00 AM ET
CTV.ca News Staff
Teaching topics related to sex or God may become a bit trickier in Alberta. A proposed bill would require schools to give advance notice of lessons dealing with "religion, sexuality or sexual orientation" to give parents the chance to remove their children from the lessons.
Frank Bruseker, the head of the Alberta Teachers Association, says educators like him are worried that the changes proposed in Bill 44, the "Human Rights, Citizenship and Multiculturalism Amendment Act," could make it tough to teach.
"Our concern is that because the bill speaks to the area of instruction, it opens the door wide open to anyone whose religious beliefs are touched upon through the course of instruction," he told Canada AM Tuesday.
"It's going to create logistical problems for teachers trying to keep track of which students have which religious beliefs or which issues might be of concern.
"And then if those students need to be excluded, what happens to those students? Where do they go and what do we do with them?"
Teachers are required to watch over the children in their care and to send a student to the library isn't always a solution, since many school libraries aren't staffed anymore.
The proposed changes also raise the question of what protection a teacher would have if they can't allow a child to leave a class.
"And if teachers fail to do it, my concern is that teachers might face complaints to the Human Rights Commission and that's something we don't want to see."
The Minister of Culture and Community Spirit for Alberta, Lindsay Blackett, says most school boards already allow parents to remove their children from curriculums that include sexuality. These proposed changes would only broaden that right, he says, and came at the request of many groups.
"There were many submissions from within caucus and by faith-based groups and parents who had some concerns about their right to have a say in the curriculum," he explained.
"Right now, the School Act allows for parents to be notified of matters dealing with human sexuality; that gives them the right to opt out of that class. So we thought this would just be a formal entrenchment of that right that's already given."
Blackett says the issue would only come up a few times each school year.
"It would include areas that make reference to religion -- of which there are few -- and sexual orientation in the curriculum -- again, of which we think there are few," he said.
He emphasized that the changes wouldn't apply to any topics that come up spontaneously during discussion in a classroom; it would apply only to matters of curriculum.
"So any discussion that teachers have with their students about evolution is not something that we think is part of the curriculum," Blackett said.
The Alberta Teachers Association argues that the "parents' rights clause" runs contrary to one of the goals of public education: teaching students how to live together in a society where different people hold different beliefs.
"Even if one can opt out of a classroom, opting out of society is not really an option and certainly not a right," the group says in a statement on their website.
The proposed bill has passed a first reading and will be debated beginning Wednesday in the legislature.
Blackett says they have heard the objections from teachers and others, and have some ideas of how to adjust the wording "to allay some of these concerns," and to better ensure that spurious complaints aren't filed with the human Rights Commission.
"Because the last thing we want to do is to interfere with the great job that teachers do for our kids," said Blackett.

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