Joe Whitbread and Jo Phillips are helping children and parents navigate the world of social media. (Photo contributed)

Dance cancelled after Alberta teacher’s climate lesson prompts online threats

School district near Red Deer cancelled annual family dance due to Facebook comments

The oil and gas sector were at the heart of a debate that led to the cancellation of a central Alberta school’s family dance.

Jayson Lovell, the superintendent for the Wolf Creek Public Schools district, said it started last week out with comments on a community Facebook page that questioned a lesson taught by a teacher at Iron Ridge Intermediate Campus in Blackfalds, just outside of Red Deer.

A parent believed the teacher was espousing anti-oil and gas values to a Grade 4 social studies class, Lovell said in an interview with Black Press Media, and only presented one side of the story.

The posts began with comments on both sides of the issues, he said, then escalated.

“It went to threats: Go to the school and the dance, which was planned for Thursday evening, and confront the teacher and cause a disturbance.”

As a result, the district cancelled the school’s annual Christmas family dance.

“Please know that this was not an easy decision, as we know the excitement students and families have for this event, and the value it carries in the school,” Lovell wrote in a letter posted online.

“But through events that unfolded throughout the week, the safety of students and staff at the event became uncertain, forcing us to make that ultimate decision.”

The RCMP got involved and issued a ticket under the School Act for disturbing or interrupting the proceedings of a school, Lovell said in the interview.

He went on to add that an administrator had happened to sit in on that lesson, which was about critical thinking on the issue of climate change and the energy sector, and that the teacher covered both sides of the topic, as laid out in the curriculum.

Coincidentally, the district had scheduled a session this week for parents and kids on digital citizenship and online safety.

The host, Joe Whitbread, co-founder of Jo(e) Social Media, said kids are losing out in the wars parents are waging online.

“Our kids are watching their mentors, the adults in their life, use foul language, poor etiquette and be downright unkind on social media,” he said. “It’s a fight, not a debate.”

READ MORE: Youth to sue Canadian government for climate change harms, discrimination

Attendance at the social media sessions is typically poor, he added.

“There are typically 12 to 25 parents, predominantly moms, very few fathers. That’s a very low number in a gymnasium with 300 to 500 kids.”

Lovell said the district is hoping to host the family dance in the new year.

ALSO READ: Federal laws at heart of western anger up for debate as Liberals begin outreach



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