Statement on including teaching of consent in sex education curriculum

Alberta Liberal Leader David Swann issued the following statement in support of including the teaching of consent in the sexual education curriculum:

“Alberta Liberals have advocated for a number of years to include the teaching of consent as part of the sexual education curriculum. I am proud to say that we adopted this position as formal party policy in 2014.

“That is why I am very pleased to see influential voices in the Catholic School Board showing leadership by publicly discussing this matter. In particular, I applaud Marilyn Bergstra for putting forward a motion today that would call on the Board to lobby the government to include important concepts such as safe sex and consent, as well as programming that would address a variety of sexual orientations, in the sexual education curriculum.

“Consent is a subject that sex education teachers need to start discussing with students as early and as often as possible. Teaching that yes means yes, no means no, and that permission must be sought, and given, before any sexual activity can occur is fundamental to the understanding of proper sexual, and, indeed, societal behaviour.

“As a graduate student in public health, Ms. Bergstra brings an important perspective to this debate. Her motion is aimed at equipping students with crucial, practical knowledge – not encouraging sexual activity. Concerns that providing students with such knowledge would promote promiscuity are, in my view, misguided.

“Therefore, I would encourage the Board to carefully consider approving this motion, and help to show leadership in this important area of the sexual education curriculum.”

Swann seeks to amend Bill 1 to include charter schools in fee reduction

Alberta Liberal Leader David Swann is proposing an amendment to Bill 1, An Act to Reduce School Fees, to remove a clause which enables the NDP to exclude charter schools from school fee reductions.

“Alberta Liberals certainly support making life more affordable by reducing school fees; in fact, we would eliminate them completely,” says Swann. “However, we feel that all parents with students in public schools should benefit equally from these changes.

“My amendment ensures all public school student fees are reduced, which is what the NDP government had originally promised to do.”

The Charter Schools Handbook clearly defines a charter school as “a public school that provides a basic education in a different or enhanced way to improve student learning.”

Public Interest Alberta, a lobby group with extremely close ties to the NDP government, refers to charter schools as private schools, which “are not necessary or helpful.” It advocates eliminating their funding to “reallocate the money to fulfill [NDP] education-related campaign promises.” These proposals were included in a backgrounder to a release opposing Motion 504, which has been removed from Public Interest Alberta’s website. A copy was obtained by the Alberta Liberal Opposition and is available here.

Swann points out that this is exactly the scenario Bill 1 makes possible.

Yesterday, in Question Period, Swann pressed Education Minister David Eggen to clarify the government’s position on charter schools, but the Minister evaded the questions.

“The NDP is being unfair to the parents of charter school students and its decision to exclude them from this fee reduction is not based on fiscal or social realities; rather, it is ideologically motivated,” says Swann. “The government needs to be transparent about its plans for charter schools, not do it on the sly through regulations.”

David Swann statement on Ministerial Order to allow Gay-Straight Alliances

Alberta Liberal Leader David Swann released the following statement in response to the Ministerial Order directing two schools to allow gay-straight alliances (GSAs):

“I thank the Minister of Education for his decision to enforce the law permitting gay-straight alliances to be established in all schools where students request them.

“However, I admonish him for not having taken a firmer stance from the beginning on this matter. By allowing a situation of open defiance to continue for as long as it had, he empowered a willful act of discrimination. This is something that he should not and must not permit.

“The incident further highlights the fact that many school board LGBTQ policies simply do not make the grade – the Minister even called them ‘clunky’. In some cases, students are even discouraged from using the terms LGBTQ or GSA. This goes against both the spirit and the letter of the law.

“One way to ensure transparency and accountability in this matter is to require all school boards, including private schools, to make their GSA policies publicly accessible. That way, parents, students, and the community can review them.

“The investigation that led to the Ministerial Order also raised concerns about a school’s ability to “out” LGBTQ students by notifying parents if students attend GSAs. If true, this is deeply troubling.

“Therefore, I call on the Minister to do everything in his power to protect these vulnerable students, and ensure their privacy and confidentiality is explicitly safeguarded.

“Finally, let us not forget that GSAs save lives. While students have the legal right to form GSAs, more needs to be done to remove all barriers to establishing these safe and inclusive student-led initiatives.”

Video of David Swann questioning Minister Eggen on Gay-Straight Alliances on March 14th can be found here.