A group of Rocky View Schools (RVS) parents, employees, and volunteers gathered outside the RVS Education Centre during its regular board meeting Nov. 25 to voice their concerns against mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations.
Parents accompanied with children held signs in protest of the public school division’s decision to mandate employees, volunteers, and visitors to RVS facilities to show proof of vaccination, a recent negative COVID-19 test result, or medical exemption letter beginning on Jan. 3. The event comes after the parents met online to organize their efforts.
RVS parent Miranda – who agreed to be interviewed on the condition of solely providing her first name – was among those participating in the gathering. She said a group of concerned parents organized the event (which they do not want to be considered a protest) in response to the discrimination they felt and ostracization of those who would speak up or ask questions about mandatory vaccination policies.
School board officials announced the division's decision to mandate COVID-19 vaccinations among staff in early October. The mandate kicks in in early 2022, and applies to RVS staff, as well as anyone who enters one of the division's schools, be it for an event or work-related reasons.
“[It’s] been really traumatic for me personally, and for my kids,” Miranda said, adding the gathering was meant to let the RVS Board of Trustees know parents have concerns about the health of their children within the school system.
Miranda said she believes in RVS and as a lifelong Airdronian, has spent much of her time volunteering and working within the school system, of which she and her children were/are students.
“I believe in the Rocky View School Division so very much,” she said. “I have a lot of meaningful and deep relationships with teachers and administrators, and I worked for RVS for a few years, so I respect teachers, the system, and I love Rocky View in general.”
She said despite this, she does not feel the school division is living up to its mission statement to support diversity within its student body, fostering a safe and supportive environment for all.
“Our kids are struggling very much with [RVS] enforcing mandates that aren’t in their best interests,” she said. “I’ve had so many people reach out in the last few months sharing their stories.”
She added stories included testimonies of mental health, suicide rates, and hospitalizations rising among young people. Considering this, she said she hopes to be a much-needed voice for kids who are struggling.
Miranda was also emboldened after she was forced to take her child who suffered from mental health issues out of school, following the health mandates and measures put in place. She has since quit school herself to home-school her daughter.
“People are afraid to speak up because it’s not a safe environment right now to have a different opinion or to question the status quo or the narrative,” she said. “I think people needed to be there [today] to support each other.
“We felt confident to share our voices without feeling like we were going to be hated on.”
She added it was made clear by the group that the day’s event would be calm, rational, kind, and respectful, with the intention of serving RVS with a Notice of Liability. According to Miranda, over 90 people served more than 900 Notices of Liability forms to trustees and administrators on Nov. 25.
“It’s about having a voice, but it’s also about letting them know that we don’t feel good about what’s happening to the kids,” she said. “The mandates are doing more harm than they are good, especially for kids who have a very low risk of having severe outcomes from this virus.”
Miranda said she hopes the gathering will open a dialogue between the group and trustees to work together in the interest of RVS students.
“The Board of Trustees are supposed to represent the parent and student voice, and only one half of that voice is being represented and heard right now,” she said. “I think there’s more people out there that feel the way the people that gathered this morning do, but they just don’t know there’s a community or an outlet for it.”
Similarly, RVS parent Jocelyn Cromwell said she hopes the gathering will spark some open and honest discussion about options that will work for everyone within the school division.
“Right now, we don’t have an option for discussion, we’re not allowed to do anything,” she said. “I fully believe in freedom of choice. There’s a ton of people not in agreement with these mandates and restrictions, and people are looking for an option.
“This is something we can do. It’s an option rather than just letting it come.”
RVS said they understand the range of diverse opinions on the division's "evolving pandemic-related protocols" in an email statement issued on Nov. 26, and added their response since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic has been to align themselves with recommendations from provincial health leaders.
"We appreciate families sharing their perspectives with us," read the statement. "Some families chose to exercise their right to protest on public property and we thank them for expressing their views respectfully and peacefully today."
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