News / Calgary

'Shameful': SOS Alberta compares Charlottesville attack to school choice debate

SOS said they weren't implying schools of choice created racism, but rather that the events highlighted why Alberta students shouldn't be 'segregated'

A series of tweets sent out on Sunday evening by SOS Alberta relating the incidents in Charlottesville over the weekend to a call to end school choice has caused backlash on social media.

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A series of tweets sent out on Sunday evening by SOS Alberta relating the incidents in Charlottesville over the weekend to a call to end school choice has caused backlash on social media.

A provincial education advocacy group is coming under fire on social media for a series of tweets linking the racially-charged violence in Charlottesville, VA. over the weekend with alternative programs or schools of choice.

One person was killed and more than 30 others injured after a suspect drove his vehicle into a crowd protesting a white nationalist rally in the eastern US city.

The tweets sent out by Support Our Students Alberta (SOS) said the following:

“Charolettesville reaffirms for us why we cannot afford to segregate our children. Not by class, race, culture, religion or ability. If we separate our kids under the guise of choice we remove opportunities to celebrate diversity WITHIN schools,” they tweeted.

SOS then included a list of alternative programs available in Alberta that they allege “segregate students.” The list included science schools, sports schools, language schools, religious schools, arts schools and more.

Twitter users called the tweets “tone-deaf,” “despicable” and “opportunistic.”

Metro reached out to SOS for an interview and received an emailed response from executive director Carolyn Blasetti saying they were unavailable due to a conference. They said in the email that SOS looks at current events with an educational lens and said Charlottesville created opportunity for a dialogue about the importance of public education being inclusive to all children.

“There currently exists institutional and structural barriers for kids in Alberta schools,” she said, adding that they don’t believe schools create a racist society.

“We are looking at the larger context of institutional systems that create barriers or inequity for children promote intolerance and marginalize vulnerable children. Our goal in linking conversations to recent events in the US was not to suggest these schools ‘create’ racism, but rather we need to proactively address all venues where barriers exist for students that can have the negative effect of dividing children along many lines.”

When asked to respond to the tweets, Alberta education minister David Eggen said Alberta schools are a place for students to learn that "diversity is our strength." Eggen also maintained his support for choice in schools.

“Our education system allows parents to choose the school that they feel will best ensure their child’s success… We support choice in education in Alberta,” he said.

United Conservative Party leadership candidate Jason Kenney tweeted saying the SOS response was “disgusting.”

“This group, run by an NDP riding President, is suggesting that pluralism in education is synonymous with forced racial segregation,” he said in another tweet.

Larry Leach, Chair of the Association for Responsive Trusteeship in Calgary Schools (ARTICS), and father of a child who has attended alternative programs said it’s clear to ARTICS that equating school choice with a violent white supremacist rally in the US causing death is “wrong, disappointing and shameful.”

“My personal experience with my son and his two schools of choice is the exact opposite of racist,” said Leach. “Perhaps if SOS was really concerned about racism in Calgary Schools, they may wish to advocate to the CBE to change the name of Langevin School?”

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