May 242011

Burnaby, May 24, 2011—Parents’ Voice will hold a press conference Tuesday, May 24 at 6:15 p.m., during a rally at the Burnaby School District’s Administration Office, to highlight parents’ growing concerns surrounding draft policy 5.45.

To date, the Burnaby Public School Board has not released information pertaining to planned curriculum changes, committee meeting minutes, or other pertinent information requested through the Freedom of Information Act.

Growing numbers of students, parents and other tax-payers are concerned that the Board’s failure to provide full disclosure may be a deliberate attempt to hide the fact that there is a hidden political agenda—an agenda that doesn’t respect parental rights, student’s rights or the Charter-mandated equality rights of Canadians, but instead serves the political interests of activist teachers and their union.

It is now evident that health professionals, religious leaders and members of Burnaby’s faith communities were deliberately excluded from the committee that developed draft policy 5.45.

Parents’ Voice, an ad hoc organization representing parents’ and students’ concerns, has learned that the “Ad Hoc Advisory Committee” was comprised exclusively of LGBTQ activists and their “allies”.

Religious leaders, members of the faith community and health professionals are apparently not included in the Board’s definition of “key educational partners” or “allies.”

Parents’ Voice asks; “If the faith-based community is not considered an ally, does this Board of School Trustees consider them to be the enemy?

Further, the serious issues associated with teen suicide and the increasing health risks resulting from homosexual sexual practices cannot be ignored. Parents’ Voice believes that the Burnaby trustees are willing to jeopardize the best interest of students to cater to a political movement that is thwarted when the facts are made known. Are we to assume that health care professionals share the dubious title of being the “enemy” of the Board as well?

The conduct of the Trustees and administration staff in the development of this draft policy clearly violates the BC Human Rights Act and Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, not to mention the School Board’s and BCTF’s own codes of conduct.

The Burnaby School District’s own website states:

The Burnaby School District expects all members of the school community to treat others with respect and courtesy, and to conduct themselves in a manner worthy of the respect of others, in order to promote a safe and positive school climate… Conduct by any member of the school community that adversely affects school climate shall be considered a serious breach of the District Code of Conduct, warranting appropriate forms of intervention.

Parents’ Voice encourages the Board of School Trustees to review their own Code of Conduct, and to govern themselves accordingly. It is obvious that the Board’s discriminatory acts in this matter have “adversely” affected the school climate. Perhaps the Board needs to be disciplined.

Further, it appears that some policy committee members and trustees are deliberately misleading students, parents and the media when stating that twelve other school districts have similar policies, when in fact this is incorrect. Most other school districts’ policies avoid the use of discriminatory and inflammatory language. Burnaby has followed in the dubious footsteps of the Vancouver and Nanaimo School Districts by labeling those with differing opinions as being “dangerous to communities and individuals.” Some of the school districts have simply added discrimination based on sexual orientation as unacceptable, bringing their policies in line with the Burnaby School District’s existing Code of Conduct, which already protects against discrimination based on sexual orientation. Parents’ Voice affirms the existing Code of Conduct—which is already an excellent example of a code that protects the rights of all students.

Some Trustees continue to publicly assert that draft policy 5.45 will not result in any changes to the school curriculum, even though the draft policy includes seven separate references to curriculum changes. Parents’ Voice asks; “Why is curriculum mentioned in the draft policy if there will be no curriculum changes?” We wonder if the curriculum changes are a part of the Trustees’ hidden political agenda.

The Burnaby School Board has threatened to stop all public consultations on June 3rd, 2011. This is unacceptable. The process to date has not been democratic, nor has it reflected the Charter values of inclusion and freedom of expression that Canadians lawfully expect. Furthermore, the Burnaby School Board has failed to ensure properly balanced representation on the policy development committee.

This process has been flawed from the start. Parents’ Voice demands that the Board begin the process anew, and make the new process is lawful, inclusive and respectful of all the stakeholders, in order to truly reflect the whole community.

The Board has, by their actions, created a toxic and hostile environment, and must apologize to the membership of Parent’s Voice and other excluded stakeholders. The Board has facilitated a proliferation of misleading information, and has played to media madness; and in doing so has offended a large portion of the community.

These acts of deliberate discrimination cannot be tolerated.

Further, the Board of Trustees has allowed students to be used in a political game, which brings shame on them! The Board owes these students an apology as well.

In closing, we call on the Burnaby School Board to ensure a safe, bully-free environment during the rally in front of OUR school board property and to protect concerned students, parents and citizens from the assaults and bully-tactics that happened during the May 10th meeting and rally.

We believe respect must be shown to all people, and ideas must be openly and freely discussed and debated, not shouted down by chanting mobs

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