Faith-based volunteers can contribute positively to the educational experience in our public schools but everyone must be perfectly clear about who they are, what they can and cannot do and school administrators must monitor their activity closely and consistently
The Week: Give us full transparency when paid ‘volunteers’ work with CV students
No doubt Comox Valley school administrators are bustling during this last week of classes before the Christmas-New Years’ holiday break to determine if Youth For Christ volunteers have been praying with students in district schools and how widespread it might have become.
Since we broke the story last week that a Youth For Christ (YFC) volunteer has been concluding his open gym time for Cumberland Grade 8 and 9 students with a prayer session, according to parents of children in that school, questions have arisen about how long this might have been going on and why so many school district administrators looked the other way?
Youth For Christ paid employees have “worked” as volunteers in Comox Valley schools since the 1990s, according to SD71 Board of Education Chair Michele Waite. And former Board Chair Sheila McDonnell also told us that she had been aware of the program occurring with the principal’s agreement and “on the basis of them (YFC) working in a team with groups of children, not one-on-one, no reference to religions, no prayers, etc.”
It seems likely now, given that parents have blown the whistle on YFC leading prayers in Cumberland, that other YFC employees could have done the same in other schools over the past nearly 30 years. It’s also possible this one YFC worker was a renegade. And maybe the district review will conclude that no prayer sessions ever took place and parents raised a stink based on bad intel, though that seems unlikely.
But the problem with using paid volunteers – surely an oxymoron – at all is that they have an employer to whom they are more indebted than to the schools where they volunteer. In this case, that means their underlying mission is the ministry of seeing “these students come to know and love Christ, to experience the resurrection life that He has for His children.” To quote one YFC worker.
A faith-based group could certainly play an important role in supporting our schools, the educators and the students. But the parameters of any faith-based volunteer have to be clear and closely monitored because religious teaching of any kind is prohibited by law in public schools, and the opportunity for proselytizing is tempting.
As former SD71 School trustee Cliff Boldt wrote in a comment to last week’s story, school principals must be held to account for what occurs on their watch. Who else is going to monitor these activities in each school? Well, of course, parents should and, in Cumberland, they did.
Perhaps at the top of the list of mistakes in this matter has been the lack of transparency by school administrators and the Youth For Christ organization.
The YFC workers are not volunteers. They are paid employees of a Christian ministry and their job is to interact with young people. They should be clearly identified as such so students and parents can decide whether it’s appropriate to interact with them.
There should be written agreements for any faith-based group that clearly prohibits religious stories, discussions or practices in conversations or activities inside the schools without written permission from the parents, who have been fully notified.
BC Law requires all schools and provincial schools to be “conducted on strictly secular and non-sectarian principles.” And that “the highest morality must be inculcated, but no religious dogma or creed is to be taught in a school or provincial school.”
Somehow now, Comox Valley school administrators must assure parents that their children will not be exposed to religious proselytizing and that the district can be trusted to monitor volunteers who might be tempted to circumvent this law.
It’s a bitch, isn’t it, when climate change comes right up and slaps you in the face? “Hey, buddy, I’m real and I’m here. My name is Drought.”
The driest fall in more than half a century has shut down the BC Hydro power generating plant on the Puntledge River and it’s also turned off the taps up at Mt Washington. The ski area’s tough water restrictions reflect the severity of our drought and also warn us about the future.
It has long been forecasted that Vancouver Island’s glaciers will disappear within the next two decades and that the declining snowpack will intensify and stretch our summer droughts, which are now extending into winter.
So it’s up to every Comox Valley resident, not just the skiers on the hill, to conserve water. Install low-volume toilets. Flush when necessary. Don’t leave taps open. Plant drought-tolerate species. Is it too late to add recycling wastewater for agriculture, golf courses and parks to the regional sewerage system?
One thing we know for sure about our water resources is that, in the long run, they’re not going to get any better than they are today.
YAY – A breakthrough in nuclear fusion is coming. According to the New York Times, Scientists at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California announced yesterday that they have “successfully used lasers to achieve nuclear fusion whose output exceeded the input from the lasers.” This verifies the potential of nuclear fusion as a future energy source, which will be a game-changer in our fight against climate change. But its practical use is still a long way from being harnessed for broad consumption.
BOO – To those who go about things in the wrong way. SIMBA Investments’ Shawn Vincent and Russell Tibbles basically berated Town of Comox staff at last week’s council meeting for not giving them what they wanted, when they wanted it. And then, doubling down on his Not-The-Nice-Guy Act, Vincent referred to Mayor Nicole Minions by her first name instead of showing the respect for her title that she deserves during a formal council meeting. But then, Vincent was there to tell the council that he is suing the town, so it really couldn’t have gone much better.
YAY — For another two years without auto insurance rate hikes. The NDP government plans to freeze ICBC rates for another 24 months. That will make five years in a row. Switching to the “no-fault” insurance model last year, which eliminated lawyers from the system, has helped keep costs down. And that’s good news for all of us shaking our heads over $7 for a head of lettuce.
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