REGINA - The Loch Ness Monster, and textbook claims that humans walked alongside the dinosaurs, were all prime topics in Question Period Thursday morning as the government faced another grilling on the abuse scandal at Legacy Christian Academy.
What highlighted the day was a controversy over the curriculum at Legacy Christian Academy and in particular the contents of textbooks being used there to this day.
Among those at the legislature Thursday morning were Caitlin Erickson, Stefanie Hutchinson and Coy Nolin, all former students of Legacy Christian Academy/ Christian Centre Academy in Saskatoon. All three have alleged abuse at the school, and have filed a lawsuit as well as criminal complaints over allegations such as paddling, exorcisms, and psychological abuse, among others.
They were there to see the debate in Question Period, in which the government came under fire yet again over their handling of the abuse scandal allegations and their oversight of the province's Qualified Independent Schools.
Beck, Love grill Moe, Duncan over handling of allegations
During Question Period, Opposition Leader Carla Beck asked why it took so long for Premier Scott Moe to act on the allegations at Legacy Christian Academy, and called for public funding to schools to be tied to the Saskatchewan Human Rights Code.
Premier Scott Moe responded saying “the code of Human Rights that we have in this province applies to all individuals, Mr. Speaker, wherever they may attend, whether it be school or whatever else they may be attending.” He said the government was committed to a safe learning environment and noted the province had acted in adding regulations and administrators in three schools. He also said they would “continue to preserve the choice for Saskatchewan families,” on where they send their kids to school.
"If I hear that Premier correctly it was the civil suit, not the allegations of abuse, that got the government’s attention," responded Beck. She then noted the three Legacy students were in the gallery and accused the Premier of refusing to accept a meeting with them.
“He’s got all the time in the world for his separatist road tours but none for the victims of abuse in schools,” said Beck. “Enough is enough — will the Premier meet with them today?”
Instead, it was Education Minister Dustin Duncan who responded, saying he had met with the three of them before and would be “happy to meet with them again if they so wish.”
When Beck asked a second time if Premier Moe would meet the students today, Moe didn’t get up to answer. Instead, Duncan stood up and again said he would meet with them.
Education Critic Matt Love then grilled Duncan on a number of issues related to Legacy Christian Academy, including whether the schools were following the provincial curriculum.
He noted many of the Christian schools don’t follow the regular curriculum, but instead rely on “the Accelerated Christian Education Curriculum”, or A.C.E. for short, which he called a “program with a reputation for leaving students with massive gaps in their learning.”
He asked why taxpayers were investing money into a “system of archaic indoctrination.”
Duncan responded that in 2012 when the Qualified Independent category was created, one of the requirements was that they follow the provincial curriculum.
“Let’s be clear, schools in Saskatchewan that receive funding have to follow the curriculum.”
Love then started reading a biology textbook from the school, referencing a line on page 413 which stated “scientific evidence tends to support the idea that men and dinosaurs existed at the same time."
Speaker Randy Weekes intervened, saying Love wasn’t allowed to use props in the Assembly.
Love then placed the textbook on his desk and noted the book “references the Loch Ness Monster as proof that dinosaurs still exist today.”
“This being taught in schools funded by that Minister. Does the Minister think that it’s appropriate to spend public dollars in education institutions that uses textbooks to teach this kind of nonsense to Saskatchewan students?”
Duncan responded that among “the understandings, expectations, requirements, Mr. Speaker, was that the curriculum, the provincial curriculum, had to be incorporated into all of the schools that receive funding.”
Former students critical of education received
The former Legacy Christian Academy students blasted the education being taught in the qualified independent schools. They were critical of the A.C.E. curriculum, from which Erickson said there were issues with “racism, classism, sexism.”
They were also critical of the Saskatchewan Association of Independent Church Schools curriculum which they said is also being used at Saskatchewan schools and developed at Bob Jones University. It turned out the Grade 12 biology book was published by Bob Jones University and was banned from use in Alberta and in several American states, but in use at Legacy Christian Academy.
“Those textbooks are banned in several states and one of them is Florida. Please make that make sense,” Erickson said.
The students were also highly critical of the learning in those schools, saying most of the learning was straight memorization. “There’s no broad discussions happening, there’s no development of critical thinking,” Erickson said.
She also made it known they believed there wasn’t enough oversight at the schools.
Erickson was disheartened at not being able to get a meeting with the Premier. “I reached out to the Premier’s office a few times, and no response. Considering that I am one of his constituents in his area I find it concerning that I can’t even get an email back from my Premier.”
As for what they hoped to achieve in their meeting with the government:
“We’d just like to have a discussion, just relay some of the concerns we’ve had. Really, it’s about not having this happen again, not having a lapse of regulations, not letting something go unregulated for this amount of time. And it’s about children never going through the kinds of things that we’ve gone through. We’ve had a lot of adults in positions of authority that failed us over and over and over. And sitting today in the Legislature kind of feels like a repeat of that, listening to the comments made.”
As for meeting with Duncan, the students didn’t hold out much hope for progress based on their previous meeting and what they heard in the legislature that morning. In that debate, Duncan had noted he was prepared to close schools and had closed Grace Academy when they refused to cooperate: "I think it’s very clear. I have closed one of the schools already. I think I’ve shown I’m prepared to take action where action is needed. And so we will wait to see the outcomes of those allegations, Mr. Speaker."
“Hearing him continuing to give himself a pat on the back for closing Grace Academy is really disheartening because Grace Academy should have neve been opened as per the government’s own regulations that he keeps referencing from 2012, which requires someone with a bachelor of education to be principal,” said Erickson. “At that time, the individual who opened the school did not have a Bachelor of Education. So that school should never have been opened — that’s not a pat on the back, that’s a glaring look at how bad these gaps are in the legislation.”
In speaking to reporters, Duncan reiterated that among the regulations put in place in 2012 was a requirement for Qualified Independent Schools to follow the Saskatchewan curriculum.
“It’s a part of the supervised visits that do take place,” said Duncan, noting the visits by administrators appointed this summer to inspect Qualified Independent Schools. “Part of that is looking at their curriculum, looking at their teachers or plans to ensure that they are abiding by the Saskatchewan curriculum. It’s certainly my expectation that the school will be following and has been following the Saskatchewan curriculum."