Our concerns regarding parental rights in the education of our children have proven valid. MLA’s in the legislature made this very evident with their discussion and comments last night in the legislature (March 14, 2012). Ms. Laurie Blakeman made several comments regarding parents' rights in education. The Alberta Hansard has not yet been printed from the evening debate so I cannot quote directly, though I caught most of the words as they were stated. (exact wording will be quoted once the Hansard on the evening session is posted) I noted these as I was surprised how openly our very concerns were stated in the legislature.
Ms. Blakeman: (regarding education) Who gets to make the final decision? Outside of Education the parent has the right. When it comes to public education, we legislators make the policy that gives forth those decisions. The citizenry makes the decision so we have a consistent standard.
Previously in the day the following comments were made as quoted from the Alberta Hansard.
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The following words in the Alberta Hanson credit Ms. Blakeman . However, I have contacted the Alberta Hansard suggesting this was in error. I received the following response: "Patty, thank you for pointing out that yesterday afternoon’s issue of Hansard incorrectly identified Mr. Anderson as Ms Blakeman. The online issue will be corrected shortly, and the bound volumes of Hansard, which are prepared at the end of every session, will be corrected as well. We very much appreciate your helping us to ensure that the official record of the debates is accurate." Liz Sim, Managing Editor Alberta Hansard Legislative Assembly of Alberta
I will thus credit Mr. Anderson with these words:
Mr. Anderson (W)
Pg 524 Should we not show, should we not conclude or make very clear in the language that it’s parents that have the paramount right? I mean, someone’s got to have the paramount right. Who has the paramount right? Is it the state? Does the state have the paramount right?
Ms Blakeman (AL): The educational interests of the child.
Mr. Anderson (W): Who determines the educational interests of the child? Who?
Ms Blakeman (AL): The act.
Mr. Anderson (W): Who? No, no, no. Not the act. Who? The act is a piece of paper. Who determines the – and I’ll let you speak to this. This is an interesting debate, I agree. You say that it’s all about the educational interests of the child. So my question to you, my question to everyone here: who is in the best position to determine what the best interests of the child are? Is it this dead piece of paper? Is it some bureaucrat in the Ministry of Education? Is it the teacher or the school board trustee? Is it the principal of the local school? Is it everybody in this Assembly? Is it me for everybody in Airdrie-Chestermere? Is it the Minister of Education for everybody in his riding? Who determines that?
My argument is that the person or persons who are best able to determine what is in the best interest of the child is, in almost every circumstance, the parent. Unless the parent does something to forfeit that – by abusing the child, by hurting the child, by taking away the child’s rights to an education, to anything, unless the parent abuses that right, in which case they then lose that right – they have the paramount right to determine what’s in the best interest. Because if we don’t do that, who do we leave it to? Who is ultimately in charge? Who ultimately decides?
We can’t just use things like whatever’s in the best interest of the child. Who determines it? Is it the Child and Youth Advocate? Is it the Minister of Education? Is it the Speaker? Is it the chair?
Mr. MacDonald (AL): The Speaker.
Mr. Anderson (W): You know what? I bet you it might be the Speaker. Maybe he thinks that. But the point is – sorry, Mr. Chair. I’m sure you do a very good job in most cases, especially with your own children. Especially with them.
The point is that as a society we have to decide who is the foundational block, essentially: who gets first crack to make that decision of what’s in the best interests of the child? My feeling is, without any doubt, that the individuals that are best in a position to make those decisions of what’s in the best interests of the child are parents, unless they give that right up through abusing it.
Ms Notley(ND): pg 526... I mean, there are very, very interesting issues that are brought up in this when we talk about sort of the paramountcy of parental rights. I wonder if it’s black and white. You know, I don’t know that the answer is always black and white....
The literature on sort of the process of parenting and grieving amongst parents who have disabled children shows that that’s a natural part of the process, but what if that process continues long enough, and the parents say: “You know what? We don’t agree that that’s what’s going on with our child, so we are going to pull him or her out of the school, and we’re going to take them home”?
To be clear, as I was saying to the Member for Airdrie-Chestermere, they’re going to be loving, they’re going to be caring, they’re going to spend all their time with that child, and they’re going to do everything they can to expose that child to books and whatever. But at the end of the day what’s happening is that that child is not getting the kind of one-on-one intervention that could actually bring about a significant improvement in their projected educational and cognitive outcome. What do we do at that point? Do we say that it’s the right of the parent to make that choice even though we know that the child may well pay for that in terms of really important life skills throughout their life because the window is not a big window in which you can significantly change those outcomes?
I mean, I see both sides, and I’ve talked to parents on both sides. It’s not black or white. I guess that’s my point. It’s not black or white. I would struggle mightily if I was a teacher and I watched a parent refuse to let a child get access to that more sophisticated and effective and peer-reviewed intervention that would make a difference.
Mr. Hinman (W): So to think that we need to have a School Act that’s
going to say that the state will supersede and step in on choosing, you know, where these kids need to go or who has the ultimate right – is it the Minister of Education, or is it the parent? That’s really what this is about. Albertans are very concerned and rightfully concerned because of the track record of this government on infringing on the individual rights of the citizens of this province.
The politicians have confirmed that our concerns are valid. There is serious argument and debate over who has the right to make decisions regarding the education of your kids. This is about parental autonomy.
(AL=Alberta Liberal, ND=New Democratic Party, W=Wildrose)