A letter submitted to David Eggen, Alberta minister of Education from Kathy Witdouck, Iron Springs.
I am writing to express my opposition to “Guidelines for Best Practices: Creating Learning Environments that Respect Diverse Sexual Orientations, Gender Identities and Gender Expressions.”
Let me first say bullying of any kind or of any student, is abhorrent, and should be shunned in any school. I endorse efforts promoted by Alberta Education and local school boards to initiate “zero tolerance” policies for schools. However, after reading these guidelines, I am convinced they are less about creating a safe environment and more about pushing a political agenda.
One of my concerns is, in the name of helping students who identify as transgender feel safe, these guidelines actually create an environment more conducive to bullying and shatter the notion of a safe and caring environment for all students. How will a high school boy react if one of his biologically male classmates walks into the girls change room because he has self-identified as being transgender? I am not so deceived or naïve to believe this student would be accepting of this, nor that he wouldn’t find a way to express his displeasure. Nor do I believe there will be enough supervision to prevent such retaliation. Even if there were enough teachers to supervise every school change room and washroom, the student would find an unsupervised time and place to let their displeasure be known. I am also concerned about the rights of children who do not identify themselves as transgender, the heterosexual population of students. How comfortable will schoolgirls be with a biological male in a school change room with them as they undress, or worse, a swimming pool change room? Do you think those children are going to feel like they are part of a “safe and caring” school when the school administration says, “If you don’t like it, you can go somewhere else to change,” as these guidelines require? If these guidelines are really for the purpose of creating a safe and caring environment for all students, then they are clearly missing the mark. It would be such an injustice to fight for something so hard that we’ve created yet another inequity. May I ask for fairness and a better balance for those not being advocated for at this point, the heterosexual student? These guidelines literally open the door to sexual predators. Please consider the following example as a serious outcome of these guidelines. If the only criteria considered for transgender is “self-identification,” who is going to prevent the sexually-charged male, student or adult from walking into a girl’s washroom during a basketball game, band concert or other school-related event? How will such a person be stopped from abusing the system for sexual purposes?
Finally, my greatest concern is these guidelines prevent parents from knowing about their children’s deepest feelings contrary to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The guidelines state, “In keeping with the principles of self-identification, it is important to: protect a student’s personal information and privacy, including, where possible, having a student’s explicit permission before disclosing information related to the student’s sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression to peers, parents, guardians or other adults in their lives.” The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states in Article 12: “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour or reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks” and Article 16, Clause 3: “The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State” and Article 25, Clause 2: “Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection” and Article 26, Clause 2: “Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace” and Article 26, Clause 3: “Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.” Parents are and must always be the foremost experts in how their children are to be raised. Government overreach in this area is extremely dangerous, against our human rights and must be prevented.
Your government’s ultimatum to abolish school boards unless these guidelines are adopted is contradictory at best, and tyranny at worst. The electorate of Alberta is counting on people in positions of influence, such as yourself, to represent our voice in promoting the best possible environment for the education of our children.
I ask that you rescind the Mar. 31 deadline for school boards to submit their policy, together with the threat of abolishment. I also ask you revise these guidelines, so the rights of all children, and their families are protected as per the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.