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Altona parents protest the pledge

Lori Penner

Irate parents filled the local school division's offices Wednesday, demanding trustees give them more authority regarding the sex education of their children.

The demand comes just weeks after news filtered out that two Grade 5 teachers at Altona's West Park school displayed a card in their classrooms pledging to support and protect gay youth. The pledge, which parents deem inappropriate for students that age to see, includes the terms lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, two-spirit, intersex, queer, homophobia, biphobia, transphobia, and heterosexual.

Parent Corey Wall told Border Land School Division trustees sexual diversity isn't even part of the fifth grade curriculum, so the cards issued to teachers Stephanie Fortier and Peter Wohlgemut - earned following a one-day session at Winnipeg's Rainbow Resource Centre - doesn't belong in a classroom full of nine- and 10-year-olds.

"This is not about being homophobic or anti-gay. This is about being age appropriate. We just want our kids to be kids," Wall told the board, adding parents feel their religious and cultural views have been discriminated against.

Parents opposed to the cards don't just want them removed, but also the right to form an advisory committee to review sensitive material before it's presented to students. They're also demanding the board to revise its policy so parents will be informed and allowed to contribute or have their kids opt out when topics are controversial, and/or about sexual education or orientation.

Division superintendent Krista Curry said it will take a few days for the board to come to a decision regarding the cards.

Manitoba Teacher's Society president Paul Olson supports the display of the cards.

"We clearly support the parent's involvement in their children's education - that's what makes public education so strong. But in terms of this issue, teachers have a professional obligation to create a safe environment to all students, not just those supported by the majority demographic," Olson said.

Al Giesbrecht, who taught in the division for 33 years, said he worries how the publicity will affect the children.

"The resulting outside view of how we behave toward each other and the most vulnerable amongst us living in the Bible Belt - experiencing the tyranny of the majority - this, in my opinion, will be much more damaging to our children than the issue that gave rise to this situation in the first place," said Giesbrecht.



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