Parents urged to bring concerns to teachers first 

By Angelica Ingram
Published Sept. 4 2018

The Trillium Lakelands District School Board is encouraging those who may have an issue with how the school curriculum is being handled to take their concerns through the appropriate channels.

In August Premier Doug Ford announced there would be broad consultations taking place regarding a new health and sex ed curriculum following the announcement that the 2015 version of the curriculum would be repealed.

Some educators and school boards have said they would continue to follow the 2015 curriculum and not the 1998 version being implemented by the Progressive Conservatives.

Ford warned that those not following the curriculum would be sternly dealt with and said a public interest committee and website has been set up to deal with “misconduct issues.”

TLDSB director of education Larry Hope told the paper that the board will follow the curriculum set forth by the province and encouraged those with concerns to talk to teachers or administrators before taking concerns to the province.

“There’s two pieces to our response and the first one is around the curriculum” said Hope. “We’ll always follow the curriculum that we are prescribed by the Ministry of Education the Education Act is crystal clear about that. It always has been that way.”

Hope further added that curriculum guidelines are just that guidelines and educators will always use professional judgment to enrich the curriculum in “whatever way they see fit or is necessary in their classroom.”

“We know that our teachers are continually confronted with new situations with new realities and circumstances and we always expect them to respond appropriately to those things” he said.

In regards to the new reporting mechanism the province has established to deal with the curriculum change Hope said his advice is to talk to teachers first.

“If you have a concern with your child or a teacher or what’s going on in their school … we always encourage open two-way communication between parents and teachers. If parents don’t get satisfaction through that route always encourage them to take the next step and of course that would be to the school principal … and we’ll be reinforcing that in the coming days with moms and dads and caregivers. We have never supported going from A to Z when there are many many steps along the way that a parent can follow when they have a concern.”

Hope said in addition to teachers and administrators parents and caregivers can also contact trustees supervisory officers and himself if there is a concern.

The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) agreed with the board and in a media release issued on Aug. 22 shared similar sentiments.

“Teachers education professionals and principals have regular communication and relationships with parents and students that have worked well. Having a Ministry of Education ‘snitch line’ that bypasses the systems already in place to deal with issues at the school level will prohibit parents and educators from addressing classroom concerns constructively. As we’ve seen from social media anonymous portals and comment threads are toxic and counter-productive to improving any situation in this case school culture” said ETFO president Sam Hammond.

Moving forward Hope said there is an opportunity to contribute to the curriculum through the consultation process that was recently announced.

He added there has always been opportunity to have your voice heard regarding the issue and that in the past the board has received little opposition to the proposed 2015 curriculum.

“We absolutely want folks to have their voice heard” he said. “In Trillium Lakelands we have not had very much feedback at all about the revised curriculum.”

The director of education wants there to be an atmosphere of trust and openness between parents and the school board and hopes that continues to be the case.

“I hope that our parents and committees feel comfortable enough with us as an organization as an institution to be able to speak with us directly” he said.