Alberta parental opt-out to take another year
Last Updated: Friday, August 28, 2009 | 11:59 AM MT
Alberta will wait another year before implementing the parental opt-out clause in Bill 44, Culture Minister Lindsay Blackett told The Canadian Press Friday, a day after he said the bill would take effect this fall.
The clause mandates school boards notify parents when sex, sexual orientation and religion will be taught in the classroom so they can pull their children out of a class if they so desire.
On Thursday, Blackett insisted the bill would be proclaimed and implemented this fall, despite a request by Education Minister Dave Hancock to delay it. But he now believes that school boards need until the start of the 2010-11 school year to put formal procedures in place.
"We still have some bylaws to write and it makes sense for all of us to take the proper time to get that right," Blackett told The Canadian Press. "Our intention is certainly not to get school boards before the Human Rights Commission."
The delay came as great news to the province's teachers who opposed the opt-out clause over fears it could leave teachers vulnerable to human rights complaints.
"We need time to work with the government and work with boards to develop good policies so that we can keep teachers in front of kids, not in human rights tribunals," said the president of the Alberta Teachers' Association, Carol Henderson.
Deciding what is considered proper notice for parents is one issue still to be worked out.
Blackett's change of heart came after both he and Hancock publicly expressed contrary opinions about the bill's timetable.
In a conference call with reporters Thursday, Hancock said he had told Blackett proclamation of the bill should wait because it was taking time to work out new rules with school officials.
"I have said to him that our process will not be ready for this school year and perhaps next school year is a good time to implement it and we're in the process of developing the protocols that we need and that'll take a little bit more time," Hancock said.
Along with being the culture minister, Blackett is the minister responsible for human rights legislation in Alberta. He had insisted the bill would go ahead this fall despite what Hancock thought.
"He's got to deal on a daily basis with the ATA (Alberta Teachers' Association) and the ASBA (Alberta School Boards Association)," Blackett told CBC News. "But the law will be what it is and I understand his sensitivity, but as a caucus we were pretty strong and firm on what we wanted to do and we'll go forward with this."
But after a discussion, Hancock said Blackett agreed the implementation should be delayed.
"Obviously the final decision is up to cabinet, but this is the normal course," Hancock told The Canadian Press.
Bill 44 has been controversial since the majority Tory government introduced the amendments earlier this year. The parental rights clause was included in changes that would enshrine gay rights in Alberta's human rights legislation.
The clause has been criticized by teachers, school boards and human rights groups. They believe it will give parents the right to file human rights complaints against teachers and schools and place a chill on what is taught in the classroom.
Blackett has insisted that won't happen. The clause will only apply to what is covered in curriculum and will not apply when a casual classroom discussion arises about one of those topics.With files from The Canadian Press
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