I Got Bullied by the School Board on Pink Day

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I love Canada, and I think it’s the most amazing place to raise my kids, with a deep understanding of diversity and acceptance of all kinds of people. I’m an upright responsible mother of three, and my biggest goal in life is to ensure that my kids are extraordinary citizens. People who will shape and form the culture we live in, allowing everyone to feel a sense of belonging and respect regardless of who they are. But this week I felt disappointed. Disappointed by a system that stripped many parents of their right to raise their kids the way they want.

Facebook, emails, and social media have been buzzing in the aftermath of Wednesday’s celebration of ‘Pink Day’ at schools across Ontario. Although all schools handled it differently, there were some public schools in the Peel district who took things to the next level. The truth is: Pink Day is awesome. It reflects our need to be understanding of others, and open minded towards differences. Which is ironic, because just this week, I felt a little bullied too for my difference of opinion!

Many parents have spoken up on line as well about feeling hurt because their kids were read a story about a Muslim Pakistani boy whose uncle was gay. Now don’t get me wrong, I am not here to judge anyone. In fact, I personally believe in my child’s right to learn everything about all types of people. I believe that teaching them about differences allows them to be more harmonized in the community they live in.

BUT… I believe that topics that require more in depth conversation need to be addressed more intimately. You see, I’m a parent, and I feel it’s my right to be able to teach my children things that require thought and conversation, without influence from anyone else. And in the aftermath of Pink Day, I feel my right was violated. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against homosexuals rights, as I do respect everbody’s right to what they believe. My beliefs teach me to love all people, but the mother in me won’t let me love those who have bullied me into becoming a passive parent. I would have taught my children about homosexuality when I felt the time was right.

If my four year old came home from school and asked me why his friend has two moms, I would sit and tell him all about how people are different and how he needs to understand that everyone chooses to live their life according to what they feel is best.

Yes. That’s exactly what I would have taught him. I wouldn’t have told him to hate this friend or make fun of him in the play ground. I would have taught my child to understand that not everyone is the same.

If my six year old brought home a library book about a family with two dads, I would read her the book, and talk to her about how she felt after reading it. I would tell her that people do things differently everywhere in the world, and give her examples of families of single parents, and grandparents who raise their grandkids when their parents are no longer alive.

Yes. That’s exactly how I would have explained it to her. I wouldn’t tell her to return the book back to the library. Or never to look at something like that again. I wouldn’t stop her from learning something that she wants to know more about. I would teach her to understand diversity.

And if my 10 year old would tell me that there is a girl in her class who likes another girl, I would have told her that people make their own choices to be who they want to be, and we have to respect them regardless  of whether we understand them or not.

Yes. That’s exactly what I would have told her. I wouldn’t tell her to act disgusted by the girl, or make this girl feel uncomfortable. I would have helped my child see others without bias.

Parents out there don’t have to agree with my approach, you don’t have to do as I would with my own children, but the beauty of this is that I get to choose, and so should you. When my children come across homosexuality on their ownI want to be able to teach them. Just like any other thing in life, it would be a privilege as a parent to have these conversations with my kids. I would want to hear what they would have to say, which would give me a chance to open their minds and explore their thought process, and really help them gain a more meaningful understanding of people, preferences, and behaviour.

Teaching your children to cook, or to camp outdoors, or to drive, are all great experiences that parents have rights to. I would feel violated if someone took that away from me. And just like that, all important things which need to be discussed and explained to children in a personal intimate conversation can’t be justifiably discussed at an assembly at school where a book is read to the kids.

That’s not fair.

As a parent, it’s my right to teach my children, when I think they are ready to talk about something, and when I feel like the conversation will benefit them.

What happened across several Peel Board Schools this week was hurtful and saddening. I’m outraged as a mother. Those teachers took our rights away as parents. How could they think that we would teach our children to hate? How could they think that we would teach our children to be bullies? How could they think that we would let our children turn into monsters? The truth is: we wouldn’t.But now we’ll never know, because the school board took away the opportunity for us to be able to make the decision on when we should have this conversation with our kids.

In reality, I feel it’s these types of random moments of exposure which confuse our kids and it teaches them to formulate quick and unstable opinions. I don’t think any teacher who read the story to her class took the time to sit down with every single child and really give them the time and attention they need to be able to understand human behaviour and hear them out for how they felt about it.

I am deeply disappointed in the education system that runs on my tax dollars. The school board doubted my ability to be a good mother, and I will always resent that. I work hard to ensure I raise outstanding citizens for tomorrow, but how am I supposed to do my job right, and raise my children to trust and respect me, when I’m not even given the opportunity to parent them the way I want?

I’m fortunate that my kids fall under the jurisdiction of the Halton Board. They celebrated Pink Day by wearing the color. Their teachers spoke to them about tolerance and respect and acceptance. They heard stories of bullies and upstanders, but no one came home confused. The school did a wonderful job of reinforcing something I have been teaching my children all along, and I love Pink Day for what it truly represents – anti bullying.

But to my friends out there whose kids go to Peel Region schools, and had children who heard the story ‘My Chacha is Gay’, my heart goes out to you all. These schools stripped you of your chance to have that conversation with your children, and that wasn’t fair. And to the writer of that book, your heart might have been in the right place, but your story left most of us Pakistanis feeling misrepresented. You didn’t create awareness for what you wanted; it only hurt a number of parents who deserved to handle things their way.

I don’t want to raise my children to live in a box or to jump to conclusions without going through a meaningful thought process. The truth is we need to teach our children about all types of people in this world, whether or not those people make us uncomfortable. But ONLY when we feel our children are curious to know more about them. I feel violated as a parent. I feel like the school board bullied parents and kids into a conversation they weren’t ready to have. Canada, I know you have more potential than this. You’re known as a mosaic where culture and beliefs come together in a beautiful blend. So let me be the best parent that I can be, and I can assure you, your citizens will outshine the world in tolerance, acceptance, and diversity.

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  • Amber Jehanzeb

    very well written. exact replica of our feelings and sentiments!

    • Maliha Khan

      I felt robbed of my parental right , as mother I have the full right to know what education they going to give my child and the sensitive issues they going to teach my kids….hereby I don’t agree with this aeticle where author says that we going to tell our children about this same sex co habiting life syle….if we going to tell them about it then as Muslim’ s we suppose to tell them Islam’s stand on this issue too…this is my child’s right as Muslim

  • Nargis

    Excellent points Hina. Am glad someone can write what we feel.

  • m2jabbar

    Very well written Hina. I actually gave a khutbah just on the importance of being involved in our children’s education system. I love how you mentioned that parents have the right of passage for the upbringing of their children, and the schools should focus on the education portion. It is our right to talk to our children in regards to what we feel is necessary for them to learn, it is our duty to talk to them about sensitive topics, because we truly understand the needs and development of our children when we feel the time is right to talk to them about it.

    Well done!

  • Shumaila Shayan

    V well written Hina. It concerns me a lot as i m a parent of 3 and moving to Canada soon. You spoke out forvevery parent esp Muslim parents…

  • ghazala

    Mashallah beautifully written. Exactly what we are feeling. Hina my friends son was read the story school. He is 9 years old and so embarrassed to go to school now. He says because the book had Muslim character and v from Pakistan. So his friends think I’m a gay too. She was crying soo much.
    We should raise our voices and reach the board. Also to join forces who are already fighting for this cause. It’s not about religion. It’s about not teaching our kids at this level. I feel reading this book is total promotion and endorsement to one type of people.

  • Rumina

    Very well written and a total reflection of our sentiments.
    It was very upsetting since we consider Canada to be our home.
    Free from irrational conflicts that arise from time to time tarnish the image of our tolerance and religious believes.
    Just like anyone else, we are sensitive to our religious believes and stand by our rights and values.

  • Asif S

    The Ontario curriculum is published and openly discussed by the government. When we send our children to school we agree to expose them to the curriculum and the power of school boards, individual schools and even teachers to interpret and implement this how they feel appropriate and effective. I empathize with the concern, but disagree that there is any bullying or anything clandestine being executed by the government. The facts and intent are all public domain. Sexuality and values around sex are an important part of the curriculum, and corollary to this is how discrimination and bullying are positioned therein. Pink Day isn’t an idea independent of this, it was born from it and it’s purpose is to engineer attitudes towards bullying and discrimination within the lens of sexuality. For parents privileged enough to have options, we have agreed to delegate the authority to the school to teach our children what they deem appropriate. Within that choice, policy lobbying is our only recourse, but based on the trend of more and more being pushed to younger grades this seems like a losing battle, Allahualim. Unfortunately the school does not see itself as an instrument of the parent’s education plan, but rather seers the parent as an instrument of the school’s education plan. It’s not designed as a medium for pure socialization allowing parents to teach children how to interpret values and ideas they are exposed to. It is designed in part to engineer and teach or children how to view the world, along side the math and English, and it would be nice to enlist parents to assist in this, but not necessary. The public school system is open and transparent about this, and we parents give them our explicit support by enrolling our children. Again for parents who are privileged enough, other options and alternatives exist to have education more aligned to our own approach, hopes and wants for their children if the public system is not doing this for us. Canada and Ontario afford this liberty to us. If we are feeling bullied and what we hoped were our rights as parents undermined, many of us are willing participants in this relationship. Allahknows our reasons and may Allah make it easy for us as parents for in our children is a great challenge for us. I ask Allah to forgive me for what wrong I have said and may others take only what is good from it.

  • Asif S

    here is a good discussion about it if anyone is interested to know more about the context of this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZCmR0F0nzug

  • Asif S

    Someone uploaded this somewhere. the book referenced here: http://vimeo.com/90493285

  • Ayan Asif Raza

    I like the way everyone is talking about rights; there rights as parents, citizens, Muslims etc. You all do realize that you have all these rights and the freedom to voice them because you live in a western society??? Try demanding your rights in Saudi Arabia, U.A.E, Sudan, Pakistan and other regressive societies and you will be shut up in minutes, put behind bars and murdered too…They are not forcing any agenda. Gay rights are as significant to them as women’s rights, children’s rights, your right to pursue your own religion. So don’t just stand there enjoying the benefits of the rights and freedom just because it’s to your benefit and advantage. Let others benefit too. If it still bothers you, leave. I have heard Saudi Arabia offers a perfect environment for your kids to grow up as “good” muslims!!?

  • Assalamu Alaikum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatoh,

    I don’t send my children to school on Pink Day, nor do I send them the day before (because there is usually activities related to homosexuality on the day before also).

    As an individual parent, this is the most I can do to send a strong message to the schools that I refuse to allow my children to participate in this. I leave my messages to each school on the attendance lines clearly stating this.

    Voting in a shirk based government (making Halal what Allah has made Haram, Sovereignty lies only with Allah, not with the state or the people) is an unforgivable sin if one dies without repentance from such an act. Muslims voting for liberals is what got us into this mess.

    Have the courage to speak out to your schools, your teachers, your school boards. Allah will ask YOU what you did about this. You are accountable for your children, not the schools.

    The Charter of Rights and Freedoms works both ways. My religious rights cannot be overridden by forcing my children to participate in these activities and class curriculums.

    Anyone who signed the “Family Values” letter which circulated was denied accommodation for their children because the letter was discriminatory. Write your own letter of religious accommodation each and every September, I always do and I am always accommodated. My children are not allowed to be included in any class activity which teaches sexual activities, heterosexual or homosexual.

    BE AWARE of what is going on in your children’s schools. Keep them home on dance days (usually Fridays anyway). Keep them home on Valentine’s Day and Halloween, the Thursday before Easter and the week before Christmas.

    The Christian holidays are all highly promoted in the schools, the Shirk is immense on these subjects. Protect your children. If you can’t afford Islamic school, and you are daunted by Homeschooling, at least be involved in your children’s environments in Public School.

  • Nabiha Meher Shaikh

    If you were truly tolerant, you wouldn’t have deleted my comment 🙂

  • Nabiha Meher Shaikh

    Because I simply wrote that you can’t claim you are pro rights and then say you are anti kids being told their rights. This reads as apologia and excuses to complain without addressing your own homophobia. Yes, you have the right to bring up your kids etc. But then you also have a social contract with the country you live in. And if you don’t object to kids being taught their rights and human rights, then that proves you’re homophobic.

    Secondly, move back to Pakistan. Your social contract with this state will allow you to prevent pro LGBT messages from being circulated publicly or in schools. And then no one will rob you of your parental rights. Problems solved!

  • Mo

    I’ll be the third person to say that if you find the educational system in Canada robbing your parental rights then you should move to a place more in line with your thinking. Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Iran would be good places. But of course, why leave a country that has free healthcare, women’s right to drive and accepts your religion? Can’t get those rights in those very forward thinking countries.

    As a Pakistani parent, I’m proud of the peel board to read such a book in assemblies.

    • Assalamu Alaikum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatoh, Mohammad,
      THIS is our country. This is OUR country. A country is a collection of it’s people. We are Canadians. We have the responsibility to affect our society in a positive direction, as citizens and as Muslims, and we have a responsibility to protect our children from corruption, whether it be dishonesty, drug and alcohol use, promiscuity or racism. This issue is dangerous to our children in two ways; by exposing our children to sexuality in any manner at such a tender age, and in promoting the normalcy of forbidden forms of sexuality at any age.
      This subject and this book is not forward thinking. This is destructive to the innocence of our children’s fitra. And we will not be bullied or ridiculed into turning our backs on our children when the wolf is barking at the door.

      • Don’t you remember, it wasn’t until the people of Lut told him to leave their city and threatened him with violence and death that Allah sealed their fate. As long as they tolerated Lut living amongst them, then Allah continued to have Mercy on them.

        I hope you understand and accept my advice with sincerity. You might want to be more careful in your methodology of advising Muslims who are calling to the STRAIGHT WAY.

      • Sara Mazin

        Well said!

  • Nermeen El Gammal

    Why are people attacking each other?? This is not only a Pakistani issue here. I am not Pakistani, yet I still feel it is inappropriate from an educational point of view to introduce this to children who are unbiassed by nature, and are still too young to fully comprehend alternative sexual orientations. Children up till the age of at least 8 are mostly friends with the same sex… why put these ideas into their minds and have them confused? Let them live a NORMAL childhood for Heaven’s sake ! Let them lead their own lives, if we introduce homosexuality before they learn about Normal sexual relations… we only confuse them, and make them doubt themselves.
    Many forms of bullying take place in school, children get bullied for being fat, slow, nerdy, clumsy, black, wear glasses, and lastly.. for being gay, so why are we only obsessed with defending the gay minority ? Why aren’t we being fair? Letting all other forms of bullying prevail and consistently bringing this up?? If that is not unfair bullying in itself, I don’t know what is !

    Well written Hina.

    • Mohsen Gohden

      Nermeen, let me give you an example. My daughter was taught the birds and bees at around 9 or 10 when mostly everyone of her friends was also taught. She was taught that her Mother and Father love each other much earlier than that. This book does not touch on the mechanics of sex. It is simply saying that there are different kinds of loving relations out there that they should be respected. When I say respect, I do not mean to be held in esteem, I mean treated decently like everyone else. And yes other forms of bullying should and are being addessed in the school systems.

  • Asif S

    http://www.newstalk1010.com/Hosts/JimRichards.aspx#podcasts this is the 1010 Newstalk show that featured this article and topic

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