Memo reminds schools to keep the candidates out of the classrooms

City Hall in downtown Edmonton, Alberta. April 16, 2015. Vinesh Pratap, Global News

Principals across the city found an email in their inbox this week after one school in the Riverbend-Terwillegar area thought it would be a good classroom experience for an up-close and personal lesson about the municipal election.

A school in Ward 9 invited some candidates to speak to a Grade 6 class about the election process. The problem is, inviting candidates into classrooms is against municipal election rules.

Lori Nagy with the Edmonton Catholic School Division confirmed the word spread quickly to 96 principals.

“They obviously misunderstood the guidelines and now another email has been sent to all principals in all areas of the city just ensuring that all of them realize that, that would be inappropriate to have candidates at their school.”

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“It happened once, and it was very unfortunate but we’re confident it won’t happen again,” she said.

The misunderstanding came to light in a Wednesday night tweet from candidate Sandy Pon in ward nine.

“No candidate should talk to classes unless it’s a forum, or with (all) ward candidates,” she wrote.

It was in response to a tweet from Tuesday from candidate Payman Parseyan.

“It is very nostalgic speaking to students in their classes. Been fortunate to attend 3 schools now and have 5 more to attend within 10 days,” he tweeted.

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When all 131 candidates for mayor, city council, and the school boards registered at City Hall, they were given a guideline package that included a reminder about campaign protocols. It’s designed to make sure, “all candidates are treated equally and no candidate has an advantage, or perceived advantage, based on position or relationship.”

Carrie Rosa with the Edmonton Public School Board said they haven’t had this come up in the public system. She said invitations are decided on at the individual school level.

“There are instances where elected officials or candidates might be invited in as guests into classes to talk about, at a high level, the democratic process which is part of the curriculum that students are learning, but guest speakers aren’t allowed to campaign or leave materials, but rather speak about their experiences, the broader role of elected officials and the election process.”

“As a district we reminded our principals in our 213 schools about our policies around electioneering and politically motivated communications,” Rosa said. “We sent out a reminder in June and again in September.”


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