Teachers at a middle school in Innisfail will no longer take their students to question period at the Alberta legislature after they witnessed the poor behaviour of the members there during a session last fall.
Innisfail Middle School sent a letter to Speaker Gene Zwozdesky, Premier Alison Redford and the leaders of all three opposition parties after 90 Grade 6 students visited the legislature on Nov. 5.
“In the short time we were in session, we witnessed members tell each other that they ‘suck and blow,’ motions across the floor from one representative to another inviting them outside to fight, verbal invitation to fight, and again, numerous reprimands from the Speaker,” the Nov. 22 letter states.
“Our students did not observe elected representatives working on behalf of their constituents to make a better Alberta."
“Instead the lesson that students took away is that behaviour that is not acceptable at school is commonplace in the legislature.”
CBC requested a copy of the letter after Speaker Gene Zwozdesky made reference to it when reprimanding members of the legislature for rowdy behaviour during Monday’s question period.
The students made the trip to the Alberta legislature as part of their social studies curriculum to get them interested in democracy.
Instead, they saw the legislators talking and yelling over each other. They also heard Doug Griffiths — then the municipal affairs minister — respond to Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith with: “It’s amazing how the opposition finds the ability to suck and blow every single day.”
“A number of the kids looked at me in the legislature that day and said, ‘Are they allowed to say that?’” said Tom Stones, a Grade 6 teacher at Innisfail Middle School.
'One student put up his hand and said, "Can I be the guy who asks the other guy to go outside and fight?"' — Innisfail Middle School teacher Tom Stones
“A number of the students afterwards said we wouldn’t be allowed to act that way in school,” he added. “And if we did, there would be consequences.”
The poor example set by the members became clear a few days later when the students held a mock legislature session at school.
“As we were assigning the roles for the people to play, one student put up his hand and said, ‘Can I be the guy who asks the other guy to go outside and fight?’” Stones recalled.
“The other teacher and I looked at each other and just went, ‘That is not what we wanted.’”
Innisfail Middle School will continue to take students to the Alberta legislature, but students will not sit through question period.
“We have reached this decision because we feel the experience contradicts our efforts to instil a sense of respect and a desire to become active participants in our representative democracy,” the letter states.