The Importance of Child Vaccinations and Keeping Students Safe: We Can’t Change the Minds of the 2% But We Can Save Lives.

I presented a Motion  to lobby government to implement mandatory vaccinations for all students attending publicly funded school (less those needing medical exemptions). Relevant vaccinations included the following: measles, mumps, rubella, pertussis, tetanus, diphtheria and polio.

Motion Passed

If we don’t take action, things will get worse before they get better…

A long read but an important matter facing the majority of school students around the globe. In the link below you will find summary information related to vaccinations in addition to a global scan of current policies aimed at improving vaccination rates in populations.

Policy Analysis Increasing Child Vaccination Rates

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Savvy Student Consumers!!

Public Board Motion:

Re:         Financial Literacy Programming for School Curriculum

Motion: Passed

That the Board of Trustees lobbies government to develop financial literacy programming for implementation into the school curriculum.

Walmart advertisement: ‘the average family saves $1200 a year shopping at Walmart. What will you buy with the money you have saved?’

 Noted on receipts and verbally shared by salesperson at the time of purchase: ‘you saved $50 on your purchase today’”

Students today are bombarded by complex social media campaigns and commentary that affect perceptions and habits related to money management. Sophisticated advertisements targeting youth consistently reinforce that individuals deserve and need to have the latest and greatest gadgets, games, clothes, etc.  Messaging further stresses a right to immediate gratification in terms of collecting material possessions along with experiences; affordability is not a consideration. As a result, ‘buy now, pay later’ attitudes are increasingly becoming the norm among younger generations. Further, access to quick and easy credit means that attitudes and desires are easily translated into behavior.

Knowing the significant purchasing power of youth, media will continue to bombard students in sophisticated, intentional ways that promote the pervasive ideology associated with modern day consumerism, ultimately supporting attitudes that lead to unnecessary, irresponsible spending practices. The most logical resource/avenue available to combat the power of theses influences and corresponding behaviors is curriculum that equips students with financial skills to empower them to become savvy, critical, analytical and self-constrained consumers. Students need to understand fully the implications of carefree spending, critique and question subtleties in messaging that influence one’s spending habits, budget appropriately, and understand concepts such as affordability.   They need to understand consequences associated with credit/debt acquisition and the importance of long term financial planning.

The economic and psychosocial impact of poor financial management, at both the individual and population level, is tremendous. We cannot afford (pardon the pun) to leave another generation of youth graduate without a sound grounding in financial literacy given the life-long implications of poor financial decision making. We must successfully impart within all students the importance that money management will play in their lives. Assertions made by Edmonton Public School Board Trustee Michael Janz are indeed correct; financial literacy must be incorporated into the new curriculum. It is a modern-day solution to a profound and prolific modern-day challenges.

Additional cross -provincial support:

Ontario to Adopt Financial Literacy Curriculum

Importance of Financial Literacy

 

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Grad Ceremony Participation and Religious Education Credits… Religion Classes are Critical & Foundational to Catholic Education.

It is important that I set the record straight surrounding media commentary on my proposed motion to review district practices related to mandated Religious Education classes. Contrary to what has been reported, I must relay that at no time have I ever suggested that religion is not an important component of Catholic Education nor that I do not agree that it should be taught. Clearly, religion is essential to Catholic Education and is foundational to our existence.  What I did suggest, is that the district might benefit by exploring alternative means to encourage students to actively engage in religion class if we are to best enhance and grow student faith. My conviction, both then and now, is that religion should be inspired rather than tied to punitive measures; in our case, participation in graduation celebrations. I do not believe this mechanism accomplishes the ends that are intended.

What precipitated my motion was notice of a district high school student who was allegedly sick for 2 years. Although, he had completed all required credits to graduate he was unable to complete his religion class. Upon proof of illness to the district, the student was not provided assurance that the religious requirement would be waved such that he could graduate with his peers. With the student left wondering, I acted in the new year by way of a motion calling for the Board to explore alternatives to this practice. (Note: it is alleged that the requirement was waved for the student the week I submitted my motion)

Additionally, based on thoughtful review of differing legal interpretations and my own review of applicable provincial and federal legal statutes, it is my belief that mandating religion as a requirement to attend graduation celebrations may be contrary to the intent embedded within several constitutional Acts (Alberta Act, sec 17, School Act, sec 50(2), Alberta Human Rights Act, sec 4, Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, sec 15). As such, I believe this puts Catholic districts in a libelous situation. Hence, my rational is three-fold: to seek non-punitive measures to encourage participation in religion class, to ensure that the district is protected from unwanted litigation and associated costs, and to preserve a strong public reputation for Catholic schools.

 

 

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Mandatory Vaccinations for Public School Attendance

Motion:

  1. I move that the board of Trustees lobby government to legislate mandatory vaccinations for all student’s in the public education system. Mandatory vaccinations will include the following: diphtheria, tetanus, polio, measles, mumps, and rubella. In extreme cases, whereby a medical doctor has advised that it is in the students best interest to forego vaccination on the grounds of medical complications, exclusion may be applicable. For example, while undergoing cancer treatment.
  2. I move that the Board of Trustees advance an emergent resolution to the ASBA that would call upon the provincial government to legislate mandatory vaccinations for all student’s in the public education system. Exclusions to the practice will be limited to only those extreme cases whereby a medical doctor has advised the child’s family to forego vaccination on the grounds of medical complications such as during cancer treatment.

Background: Surveillance Snapshot-Global Measles outbreaks 2017

As of January 2017, 500 measles cases have been reported by the World Health Organization (WHO) European Region7.  17 deaths were reported in Romania alone in this same time period. Measles continues to spread within and among European countries, with the potential to cause large outbreaks wherever immunization coverage has dropped below the necessary threshold of 95%.6

The Michigan Department of Health and Human services had confirmed Michigan’s first measles case by March of this year6. From January 1 to March 25, 2017, 28 people from 10 states (California, Colorado, Florida, Michigan, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Utah, and Washington) were reported to have measles2.  Surveillance data published March 31st, 2017 by the Public Health Agency of Canada for epidemiological week 11, 2017, reported 10 cases of measles in Canada, resulting in an outbreak in Nova Scotia4. Since, this reporting period additional cases have appeared including one case in Calgary with warnings of potential for outbreak1.

From 2001 – 2012, the average number of measles cases reported across the United states on an annual basis was about 60. Recently, there have been more, which is of great concern to public health authorities. In 2014, there were 667 cases in the U.S.; the majority of people who got measles were not vaccinated6.

In Canada, measles has been eliminated since 1998. However, Canada will continue to see measles cases stemming from travel to countries where measles is present (endemic) or where there are large outbreaks3. Many developing countries continue to struggle with endemic levels of vaccine-preventable disease. Although such diseases have since been eradicated in the developed world, we grow increasingly at risk for outbreak through transfer from other countries particularly as vaccination rates continue to decline3. China and India alone reported 125,000 cases of measles for 20153. Outbreaks in Canada are linked to travellers to China, India and other regions around the globe.3

“Immunizations are the best way to protect our families and communities from the harmful, sometimes deadly consequences of vaccine-preventable diseases like measles,” said Dr. Eden Wells, Chief Medical Executive with the MDHHS6.

Measles is a vaccine-preventable respiratory infection that can result in hospitalization, pneumonia, encephalitis, and death. The illness initially presents with a high fever, red eyes, cough, runny nose, photophobia, and is followed by a red, raised body rash starting on the head and face that then progresses to the rest of the body. Individuals may be contagious for a few days before they present with symptoms, which increases the potential of exposing others to the infection.

Measles is a highly communicable disease. Vaccination is the best line of defense, and successful prevention and control requires that 95% of the population be vaccinated to ensure herd resistance within a population. Consistent with other childhood vaccines, the measles vaccine is highly effective and very safe6.

Rational:

Although I have provided recent data in relation to measles, outbreaks related to other preventable diseases have also occurred early into this year in Canada. This includes, but is certainly not limited to, a whooping cough outbreak in both Manitoba and Alberta as well as multiple cases of mumps within Edmonton Health Region. These vaccine preventable cases are the direct result of drops in vaccination rates within the population.

As most of these diseases are highly infectious, schools are optimal breeding grounds for epidemic level outbreaks. Couple this with the growing trend to not vaccinate; hence a loss of heard resistance within the localized population and we can logically conclude that our students are increasingly at risk.

Additionally, tremendous financial costs are associated with standard, “outbreak investigation practices”, “follow-up quarantine measures” and medical intervention should even a solitary case be reported.

In Ontario and New Brunswick, students are required to be immunized for diphtheria, tetanus, polio, measles, mumps, and rubella. Vaccinations are a safe and effective preventative measure against several severe and potentially debilitating or deadly childhood diseases. I urge my colleagues to support this motion.

Media coverage

References:

  1. Calgary Herald. AHS issues warning after measles case detected in Calgary. Calgary Herald. April 2017
  2. Centre for Disease Control and Prevention. National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, Division of Viral Diseases: Measles cases and outbreaks. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. April, 2017
  3. Government of Canada. Measles: Global Update; Travel Health Notice. Government of Canada. 2016, July. Retrieved from: https://travel.gc.ca/travelling/health-safety/travel-health-notices/98?_ga=1.238850304.1832843257.1487915580
  4. Government of Canada. Measles & Rubella Weekly Monitoring Report: March 12 to March 18, 2017 (week 11). Government of Canada. 2017. Retrieved from: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/publications/diseases-conditions/measles-rubella-surveillance/2017/week11-march-12-18-2017.html#a1
  5. Irene Ogrodnik. Fact file: Are students required to get vaccinated in Canada? Shaw Media. 2013. Retrieved from:
  6. News Desk. Outbreak news today: Michigan: 1st confirmed measles case of 2017 reported. Outbreak News Today. 2017, Mar. Retrieved from: http://outbreaknewstoday.com/michigan-1st-confirmed-measles-case-2017-reported-11871/
  7. Press Release. Outbreak News Today: WHO update on European measles outbreak. Outbreak News Today. Mar 27. Retrieved from: http://outbreaknewstoday.com/update-european-measles-outbreak-46322/
  8. CBC News: Health. Whooping cough outbreaks in Canada tied to lower vaccine immunity. The Canadian Press. Nov., 2015. Retrieved from: http://www.cbc.ca/news/health/whooping-cough-pertussis-1.3317431

 

 

 

 

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A Call for Sex Education Reform

A Call for Sex Education Reform

Motion:

  1. I move that the Board of Trustees lobby government to revise the existing sex education curriculum. Consideration for a comprehensive curriculum would include, but not be limited to, a program of study that is tailored to a variety of student orientations, be grounded in research, include the concept of consent, relays valuable information and preventative measures against the transmission of sexually transmitted blood borne disease along with prevention of pregnancy. Finally, the Government of Alberta will set out provisions to assure that the delivery of such information is consistently delivered across Alberta in all publicly funded schools.
  2. That in partnership with Edmonton Public Schools we lobby the Alberta Government to review and revised the existing sex education curriculum based on the merits noted above.

Rational:

There are a multitude of reasons as to why revisions are required to our current sex education curriculum.

  1. As a participant in a student lead conversation on sexual orientation at the University of Alberta, it was highlighted that current sex education classes serve little to no value for students who identify as LGBTQ. Like all students, it is vital that these individuals are provided sex related information that allows them a greater understanding of their bodies and issues that would pertain to their orientation.
  2. A great deal of research is now available that has changed our understanding of the world and our bodies. It is important that all students be afforded research based information that supports good health (both physical and mental) and is prevention focused. Students need to understand their physiology and limits. Too many young students are ending up in hospitals due to a lack of understanding surrounding one’s physiology and associated inaccuracies in information.
  3. Disease prevention is pivotal in the promotion of healthy students, healthy populations and hence, improving the economic strength of our province. Currently, sexually transmitted blood borne diseases (STBBD aka STIs) are at epidemic levels in Alberta. Public health officials are calling for better education to help curve the spread of these infectious diseases. It is also important to note, that in some cases, diseases such as gonorrhea are becoming increasingly resistant to drugs with 33% of these cases no longer responding to the medications used for treatment of this disease. The degree to which this is successful is very much tied to consistency and competency of instruction across Alberta. This in and of itself merits review and recommendations for effective implementation.
  4. Tailored programming relating to disease transmission is also urgently needed. Data highlights that some groups within our population are at far greater risk of contracting an STI versus some other cohorts. Just as one example, 1.4 million individuals are currently reported to have HIV in North America (a conservative estimation given that not all cases have been diagnosed or reported). We must empower at-risk groups to make healthy choices. This begins with knowledge and understanding of risks, one’s body, disease transmission and preventative measures.
  5. Consent is a critical issue that has been largely overlooked in our curriculum. Students need to fully understand what consent looks like. Students need a comprehensive understanding that coercion or guilt is not appropriate. They need to learn to stand up to peer pressure. Likewise, they need to understand fully what consent does mean and under what circumstance. Lastly, they need to understand the legal implications. Far too many young students (largely male) end up on the wrong side of the law, left to deal with the dire consequences of a snap decision. Conversely, on the other end of this spectrum is the emotional and possibly physical damage that the victim will suffer. Often these scars last a life time.

In summary, all persons have the right to fully understand their bodies and understand options that can help protect their health; both physically and mentally. Current gaps in the sex education curriculum have the potential to place students at unnecessary risk. Knowledge is the key to prevention and thus to strong physical and emotional well-being. A lack of information can lead to severe consequences from both a health and legal stance. The time for action is now.

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New World Order

So, it seems that 10 years in as an elected official and I still am learning the ropes. Tonight, I was to learn that a board corporate can remove an elected trustee’s motion from the agenda by a simple majority vote, rendering their views silent to the constituents they were elected to serve and to whom they are accountable. To date, I was under the impression that democracy would not only allow but would demand that those whom the public has charged with representing them would grant a trustee the absolute authority to bring any issue into public board for discussion, regardless of views held, rational behind the motion or stance on a given issue. Apparently, this is not so or at least not with our board. This begs the question, am I wrong? If so, I would like to gain a better perspective of how such a process works to support ones elected voice in a society built on democratic ideology.

To be clear, I have previously voted to have items removed from the agenda. However, this has been limited to only two scenarios:

  1. when the mover of the motion makes the request to have their own item removed.
  2. when the matter is related to land, labour or law. As per legislation, these three types of matters cannot be conducted in public board. If or when an item of this nature has been inadvertently placed on a public agenda, it is the duty of all Trustees to ensure that the item be moved to an in-camera meeting to avoid breech of law.

 

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