By Donna Allen
Much has been said in the last few months about the need for criminal record checks for candidates running for the office of school board trustee.
Given the circumstances around our local school board election this past November, it was time to have this conversation and now a new level of awareness is evident both in our school district and throughout the province.
As with most controversial issues some people agree, some do not.
Some people expressed the opinion that this was all about whether or not you should be able to grow and sell marijuana. They missed the point.
This is about the safety of children in our public schools and the voters’ right to know what they are getting in a candidate when they finally make an ‘X’.
As a former secondary school teacher/ counsellor, I spent my professional career supporting students. Many of those students were high-risk and vulnerable to danger.
I saw first-hand the results of the damage that can happen to a child from various life circumstances.
Children are especially open to both the positive and negative influences of persons with ‘position power’. One only needs to take a look at the history of aboriginal children as an example.
School trustees have position power and they have access to our children. Trustees may act as chaperones, sit with students on committees, work in the schools, and, in fact, interact one-on-one.
Trustees should be regarded as positive role models in the community.
Fortunately, we have a law in place now where teachers and others working with children and vulnerable adults must have a criminal record check. The employer has the right not to hire a potential employee if there is a concern about a criminal record.
My position is that the voter is the employer of school board trustees and as employers, have every right to know the candidate’s background.
Whether I agree with it, as a school board trustee candidate, I had to make a financial disclosure. If I am working with your children, shouldn’t the voter also have the right to know if I have an existing criminal record?
Having a school trustee take a criminal record check after he/she has been elected is problematic and does not truly address the issue of openness and transparency.
It would, however, be a beginning.
We need the provincial government to begin working on this issue. The government has experts who know how to “plug the holes”in the current legislation.
Is it beneficial to all concerned? I believe it is.
Donna Allen is serving her third term as a school trustee in Nanaimo. She previously worked for 25 years in the district as a secondary school teacher and counsellor.