Never would we want to hear of a teacher grooming little Johnny or Sally to one day vote NDP, or for a public school to endorse the Liberal party. But to bar trustee candidates from approaching parents on school property to discuss issues affecting those schools doesn’t make sense.
The Victoria Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils, or VCPAC, sent out a letter last week to all trustee candidates in the Greater Victoria school district reminding them that this past spring, the current board of education unanimously voted for a policy that bars campaigning in schools or on school property. The letter goes further, saying some candidates are violating the “spirit” of the policy by having their supporters distribute material to parents on school grounds and by campaigning just off school property.
VCPAC’s stance, along with the nine incumbent trustees who voted for the policy, does a disservice to democracy. With turnout so low for trustee elections (trustees’ names go on the same ballot as council candidates, but earn few X marks), we should be encouraging campaigning in locations where there are people who are most likely to vote. Trustees matter more to parents of students than most other voters and candidates should have access to their potential electorate.
At an all-candidates meeting last week for trustee candidates, David Bratzer was more vocal on the policy than others, saying it is a “core Canadian value to stand on the sidewalk and talk to parents. … It teaches kids about democracy.” He added he is respecting the policy by staying off school grounds.
Is campaigning so intimidating to parents that regulations are needed to keep it at bay? Perhaps parents who aren’t interested in a candidate’s speech could turn them away. At worst, the process could spark a debate between parents and their children about elections, democracy and school governance.
However, keeping candidates from approaching parents at schools will only further erode a process that is already ailing.