A School District 91 school did not reference Mother’s Day this year and instead used terms that include all types of family situations.
An email sent by Libby Hart, principal of W.L. McLeod Elementary School in Vanderhoof on April 19, and leaked to residents says the school will no longer hold activities for “traditional” Mother’s Day or Father’s Day.
Hart declined to comment, directing questions on the subject to the school board.
The Express asked Mike Skinner, assistant superintendent for SD91, whether the email applied to all SD91 schools or just W.L. McLeod.
On May 9, Skinner said, “In that leaked email it talked about Claire… It names our director of instruction. That came from our district — that our schools need to look at being fully inclusive and mindful of some of the things that were said in there. So that message did come from the district.”
“I think it goes back to schools looking at this more than a decade ago.”
SD91’s director of instruction Claire McKay is paraphrased in the leaked email as saying at a meeting the week prior that a focus on the traditional concept of mothers and fathers is not “trauma informed practice.”
The email argues those activities “do not honour” all families, “nor does it respect kids who may be living without a parent,” for different reasons.
“It’s time to make a very targeted change. We will not acknowledge traditional Mother’s and Father’s Days at McLeod. Please do not do so in your class,” the email reads.
“This is about school-wide philosophical change. Should you choose to do an activity, help kids say thank you to caregivers or celebrate adults in their lives.”
Vanderhoof resident Dan Brooks is among those who took issue with the letter, that has been circulating in the community since it was leaked, and accuses McLeod of ‘cancelling Mother’s Day.’
“Everyone has a mother, and my heart goes out to all those mothers who won’t get their child’s artwork to post on their fridge this mother’s day,” Brooks said in an email to the Express. “This stepped over a line.”
In the leaked email W.L. McLeod staff are asked to “consider what a child has experienced” and what feeling the day might bring up for them.
Staff should “avoid gender at all” and steer away from cards with ‘flowers for mom or ties for dad.’
“Talk to older students about gender stereotypes. Ask about the qualities that mothers and fathers have or the roles they often play and why these have been culturally assigned to each gender.”
Staff are asked to remember that some children have lost a parent or don’t have a relationship with them — those days could be a painful reminder of this loss — and to use alternative language to reference those days.
In a May 6 email statement to the Express, Skinner said, “Our learners live in varied family structures, including grandparents, relatives, or foster homes.”
“Some of our learners and their families have experienced grief and loss. We want our schools to be safe and inclusive for all children, where they can recognize and celebrate those adults who care for them every day.”
Skinner said schools are looking for ways to be mindful and responsive to family-related trauma. He said it’s important to include the wide range of family backgrounds of children so that nobody feels left out or sad on those days.
“We know many families will mark May 8th in their own special and unique way.”