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HomeSunset Host CoThe parental rights Trojan Horse – Winnipeg Free Press

The parental rights Trojan Horse – Winnipeg Free Press



Last Thursday, the PC party promised to expand parental rights if elected.

Much of what was proposed is redundant and unfounded. The curriculum documents are all readily available online. In addition, media release forms are widely used in schools across the province and schools typically inform parents about guest speakers. Similarly, the idea that schools need to better inform parents is peculiar, as parents can email or phone teachers, read school newsletters, check out school social media, consult report cards, go to parent teacher conferences, speak to trustees, and attend school board meetings. Now more than ever, parents have many ways to stay informed, to collaborate with teachers, and to exercise their voice when it comes to their child’s education.

However, ‘parental rights’ is not about parents; rather, it is a conservative strategy to limit the scope of conversations and curriculum in schools.

                                <p>PC leader Heather Stefanson holds a press conference on parental rights in education on Thursday at St. Vital Park.</p>


PC leader Heather Stefanson holds a press conference on parental rights in education on Thursday at St. Vital Park.

Parental rights advocates rail against teachers who ‘push their values,’ while the parental rights movement seeks to impose its own belief system on others — without any sense of irony.

It has been used to push forward reforms that are homophobic, transphobic and racist. This includes the Don’t Say Gay Bill in Florida, which bans instruction about LGBTTQ+ identities. It includes a policy in New Brunswick that prohibits teachers from using a student’s preferred pronouns without parental consent, a policy that is harmful for transgender and non-binary students and does not respect their privacy. It includes book bans in many school districts that remove books about race and racism from library shelves.

Masked as a moral panic, it is in reality a movement about controlling what is taught in schools, resulting in the dehumanization and delegitimization of students and communities.

When we focus on parents who want to opt their children out of curriculum, or limit what everyone learns based on their personal values, we are privileging a small group of parents. Moreover, these moves to control what is happening in schools are often motivated by small groups who are not parents in the division and/or are well-funded outside groups.

In turn, we are allowing political groups to advance their agenda under the guise of parental rights.

In using language from the parental rights movement, the PC party is using a discourse of fear to rally and unite their base to vote in the October election. The parental rights movement often presents the LGBTTQ+ community as a fabricated collective enemy, and this moral panic is used to garner support for increased control over schools. This moral panic also results in demands to remove topics relating to diversity, equity, inclusion, decolonization, social emotional learning and more from the classroom, all of which are important parts of Manitoba curriculum and other education policy documents.

Fear and anger are being stoked to make changes that do not reflect our communities, the basis of our education system, or human rights in the province.

What is left out of this discussion is the rights of students.

Students are not parental property, they have their own rights enshrined The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Moreover, this promise from the PC Party is in violation of the current Public Schools Act, which indicates that “the purpose of the public school system is to serve the best educational interests of students,” as well as “the development of a fair, compassionate, healthy and prosperous society.”

Safe and inclusive schools and classrooms are in the best interests of students, where they can learn about multiple perspectives, cultural values and beliefs beyond those of their own family and community. This is essential for a fair and healthy society. Existing educational policies in Manitoba prioritize learning in community over parental control of the education system. For instance, Mamàhtawisiwin: The Wonder We Were Born With, the Indigenous Education Policy Framework asks schools to commit to putting students at the centre by respecting and listening to them. It also promotes the authentic involvement of families, which means schools and families working together for the well-being of students. It is about collaboration, rather than control.

Parental rights are a dog whistle for regressive politics that harm and bully LGBTTQ+ students and community members.

They are also a distraction from other substantial changes the government could be making to improve the well-being of children in schools — an actual priority of parents in this province.

We could be discussing the persistent underfunding of public education. We could be pursuing supports for students experiencing poverty, including, but not limited to, universal nutrition programs. We could be advocating for more counselling resources for students. We could be investing in existing school infrastructure, which in many cases is unsafe and in drastic need of repairs. We could be working to reduce class sizes. And we could be committing to ensuring safe and inclusive spaces, while denouncing movements that aim to ban books and erase LGBTTQ+ people from the classroom.

All of these actions support children, parents, families, teachers, and ultimately communities. They have also, for the most part, been absent during the election discourse so far. Instead the PCs are using parental rights to distract voters from these issues.

We all need to speak up right now to show the PCs that their alignment with the parental rights movement does not reflect the values of Manitobans. We urge voters to reject hate and to ask about these actions when candidates come door knocking this election season.

Shannon D.M. Moore, Kevin Lopuck, Colleen Dawson, Katie Hurst, Ellen Bees, Emily Livingston, Scott Durling and Melanie Janzen are members of People for Public Education.

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