Chilliwack school trustee Heather Maahs put forward a motion at the Chilliwack school board meeting on Feb. 7 looking to enshrine parental rights in education. Maahs urged the board to write a parent/guardian rights policy, “recognizing that parents are their child’s first educator(s), respecting their parental authority, and recognizing their rights and responsibility to participate in their child’s education.”
In Maahs’ opinion, that should include:
- The right to volunteer in their child’s school
- The right to access information regarding their child’s activities in school
- The right to view all their child’s files, to challenge any information, and if necessary, use the appeals process
- The right to having full access to all resources, curriculum and/or reading material in schools
- The right to determine what subject matter is appropriate for their child
- The right to be consulted when interventions from outside agencies or regular school activities are being considered
- The right to be provided with letter grades and/or the academic status of their child, upon request
- The right to homeschool their child with support of the school district, in accordance with legislated requirements
Maahs’ motion was seconded by Trustee Richard Procee, but was ultimately voted down.
Trustee Willow Reichelt called some of the suggestions “very, very troubling,” zeroing in on the proposed right for parents to access information regarding their child’s activities in school.
“The requirement of schools to report back to parents on some of their students’ activities, there could be a lot of situations where a child is not safe to tell their parents maybe some of the things that are going on at school,” Reichelt said. “Especially a queer kid who is in a family with homophobic parents. They’ve come out at school and they’re living their best life and they don’t want to tell their parents.
“A policy that would enshrine that schools have to disclose would go against that child’s rights, and I would always, always put childrens’ rights ahead of parents’ rights.”
Trustees Teri Westerby and Margaret Reid agreed with Maahs that it’s not easy for parents to know what their rights are in the education system, but those rights already exist in other policies. Both said creating a new policy would be redundant, and said SD33 should focus on creating, in Westerby’s words, a “parents’ rights access kit.”
“I’ve had several parents come to me asking for guidance on how to process some things that are going on in their schools,” he said. “So I would absolutely love to see more transparency and communication with parents in the district.”