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Letter: Lice reported in Burnaby schools, but not COVID-19 cases - that's wrong

Culture of secrecy under fire
Classroom with young children COVID
Young children wearing masks in classroom

Editor:

COVID-19 secrecy in Burnaby schools is taking on a life of its own and it’s only week two.

Educational professionals spend all day talking to children, but adhere to a strict code of silence. The confidentiality agreements we sign before we even start work lays the foundation - it’s even built into our job description.

I understand the importance of privacy and confidentiality around children, but this beast takes on a life of its own. Even though I am no longer working in education, still to this day, I hold my secrets from the public. People would be shocked if they knew the things I know. 

Confidentiality is a word that flies around the school atmosphere. The higher you move up the chain, the more the word is used as a tool. 

Confidentiality is used as a way to shut down meetings, deny people access to information related to their own children, to assert authority, to bond teams, to create alliances, to build a sense of belonging, to exclude, to create fear, to use as intimidation, and to manipulate and hold power over parents in the education system. Many teachers are even scared to share social media posts that promote the reality of the education system.

This code of silence transcends districts, cities and provinces.

Parents of children without disabilities are now getting the same treatment but related to COVID and connected to health officials. However, this time it’s the education staff breaking the silence. Little bits of information are trickling out, staff anonymously sending out information about cases of COVID and letters not being sent home. 

Parents informing the teachers that their child has tested positive for COVID and then staff witnessing the spread and seeing nothing happening. 

Now, instead of confidentiality being used to uphold a broken system, staff and parents are wanting the walls to come down so that people don’t get sick and die.

Government will use privacy as a way to control information. We have been watching the debates between individual and society rights among topics of mask wearing and vaccinations. The law is up for interpretation on how far we swing either way.

One smart parent pointed out on Twitter that we get letters home when a child has lice in the classroom, but not COVID. Something is very clearly wrong here, and we have a right to know. Transparency in government is extremely important, which is why journalists are pillars of democracy. We need to have a serious discussion on what is confidential and why. The education system and COVID in schools should not be a secret. This time, lives are depending on it.

Kim Block, Burnaby

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