Brian Mielke is running for the Chilliwack school board. (Submitted)

Parent concerned over privacy breach is a candidate for Chilliwack school board

Brian Mielke said sharing of student names with U.S. research firm shows trustees disregarding law

One of the final candidates to announce a run for the Chilliwack school board alleges a decade-long privacy breach of student information at School District 33.

Brian Mielke was in the news in February when he expressed his concerns about a privacy breach that took place between 2005 and 2015 involving the district’s participation in a research study at the University of Oregon.

Approximately 1,000 names of students in the district were shared with researchers. Mielke said he did an FOI request to access his child’s student file, and what he got back involved documents that were heavily redacted but included many student names unredacted.

“I immediately became concerned,” he said at the time. “There are very clear privacy laws of data not crossing the border.”

The School District did admit their actions did not fully satisfy the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, but it said the risk of any adverse impact on individual privacy was minimal.

• READ MORE: Chilliwack parent raises flags over school district privacy breach

In announcing he will run for school board, Mielke said the oversight or the mistake with the privacy breach points to a larger problem.

“The big picture point of concern is that if Trustees are disregarding their duties, the law, their oath, and the safety of children; then what other risks are we exposing our children to when we vote them in?” he wrote.

(See below for his full statement.)

On other issues, Mielke said he felt parents were being left out of education and that Parent Advisory Councils “have been related to largely a fundraising role.”

Mielke also addressed the SOGI 123 controversy, coming firmly on the side of the anti-bullying teaching resource.

“It is not acceptable to expose any child to any form of bullying or elevated risk of suicide,” Mielke said. “I was disappointed to read that the most vocal anti-SOGI trustee had engaged in a shameful, disrespectful, and unwarranted attack on the president of our District Parent Advisory Council.”

The latter statement refers to incumbent trustee Barry Neufeld who launched a letter-writing campaign against DPAC chair Justine Hodge. She received so many letters in 24 hours, some hate-filled, that she started a file with the RCMP.

• READ MORE: Neufeld launches letter-writing campaign against DPAC chair

Mielke added that moving forward, the school board should focus on areas of actual importance, such as strategic direction, funding, and advocating for low-income students.

Full statement by Brian Mielke announcing his candidacy for Chilliwack school trustee

In announcing my candidacy for School Board Trustee, I would like to offer my thoughts toward making informed 2018 Trustee Candidate selections.

This year we saw revealed, a decade long privacy breach of student personal information. The failure of the SD33 School Board of Trustees to address this large and growing breach in the face of repeated notifications, casts a long dark shadow upon the incumbent Trustees. The facts of this decade long privacy violation were validated by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner for BC.

The School Act explicitly defines a few key duties for School Trustees and in 79 (1) b it states “ensure confidentiality of the information contained in the student records and ensure privacy for students and their families”.

When we vote for School Trustees we are entrusting them with the Safety and best interests of our children.

The big picture point of concern is that if Trustees are disregarding their duties, the law, their oath, and the safety of children; then what other risks are we exposing our children to when we vote them in?

Children are vulnerable and impressionable, and as adults we have an obligation to protect them. Schools need to be Safe and Caring places in every respect. Children need to be supported and guided to fully discover and appreciate their value and self-worth. This is key to their motivation and success. Realizing their aspirations and passions is the ultimate marker of success.

Parents are the primary educators of their children. Some parents home school providing all of a child’s educational development. Other parents delegate various parts of their child’s education to teachers, coaches, tutors, etc. I am concerned that our Parent Advisory Councils have been relegated to largely a fund-raising role. I feel that the parents and the collective parent voice should be heard and treated with respect.

The board needs to have the capacity to guide the human and physical resources needed to serve the educational development of every child, with a high degree of morale and sense of attainment on the part of those rendering the service comprising the educational offering.

The Anti-SOGI rhetoric of SD33 Trustees is troubling in a number of ways. Essentially the sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) educational materials and anti-bullying policies seek to stop an area of bullying, and prepare children to allow them to successfully function inside the boundaries of society. The statistics presented in 2016 indicate 19% of students identifying as LGBTQ, the statistical rate of suicide for this group was stated as seven times higher. It is not acceptable to expose any child to any form of bullying or elevated risk of suicide. I was disappointed to read that the most vocal Anti-SOGI Trustee had engaged in a shameful, disrespectful, and unwarranted attack on the president of our District Parent Advisory Council.

The BC School Act in 76 (1) states “All schools and Provincial schools must be conducted on strictly secular and non-sectarian principles.” Trustees need to inform themselves of the legislation and constrain themselves to function within the law.

The venue to change law is through the provincial government, not Chilliwack School District 33. SOGI was brought in under BC Liberal Education minister Mike Bernier. In 2017 NDP Education Minister Rob Fleming, and former Education Minister BC Liberal Mike Bernier stood to endorse SOGI education.

Pursuit of a personal ideological agenda usurps the purpose, focus, and agenda of the Trustee office. It places the personal interest of a Trustee, ahead of the interests of SD33 and in particular in front of the needs of students.

Our children and our educational institution need Trustee’s that are mindful, competent, and able to read and follow the law. Above all this is about Safe and Caring schools for children.

I would submit that going forward trustee focus needs to be on matters of relevance and with in their purview; such as the areas of Strategic direction, restoring funding, building support staff and resources to support student learning, overcoming the deficit of French Immersion teachers, funding for the Arts and Technology, advocating with community groups to address barriers for children and youth living in poverty, advocating for free public transit for all school aged children, working toward the elimination of school fees and demand the province fully fund shortfalls that arise with the elimination of those fees to limit dependence on parental fundraising.

Brian Mielke – Trustee Candidate – Chilliwack

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