Parents angry after NS school cancels Mother’s and Father’s Day for ‘Family Day’

HALIFAX — As any parent knows, sometimes trying to do right by everyone in a delicate situation can lead to further complications.

Astral Drive Elementary school, in Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia has landed in such a predicament.

To keep pace with the changing composition of its’ families, the school decided to forego Mother’s Day and Father’s Day activities, in favour of “Family Day”.

But, many families in Cole Harbour don’t like the new policy.

More than 400 people have signed a petition, demanding the school re-instate Mother’s and Father’s Day activities (which usually consist of school-children making crafts and cards to bring home).

One of the petition leaders, Heather Bruce, is a single mother, who says the change is disheartening.

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“My son, this year was the first year in six years I didn’t receive a card from him because there’s no-one else telling him that that it’s Mother’s Day. Those things are important to teach our kids. To honour, respect their parents and they get that from school, sometimes.”

Her 11-year-old son, Ben, says he agrees.

“I’ve been doing it since I can remember. I’ve done it all the years in school, so, it’s really important to me,” said the grade five student, as his mother watched encouragingly in their living room.

The catalyst for the change was a female student, whose parents are lesbians.

She expressed discomfort at sitting through Father’s Day activities,

In a statement, the parents of the student suggest opponents are upset, not because their children are missing out, but because they are “losing something for themselves.”

But, Jill Wournell, who resigned from the school’s parent-teacher organization over the dispute, disagrees.

“For me, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day isn’t about being the star of a day, it’s about your children not looking at themselves as the main person in the story.”

The petition calls for a policy reversal by tomorrow, when students would normally celebrate Father’s Day, which falls on Sunday.

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A phone message, sent to parents by school principal Ruth Bond last night, makes no such promise.

But, Bond does suggest the policy will be reconsidered for the next school year, which begins in September.

“It was never our intention to hurt the feeling of our parents and guardians. Our intention has always been and always will be to have all students feel safe and accepted.  If we have done that in a way that has not honoured the community, we apologize.”

Bond says school officials have “heard the voice of the community, and take your concerns and comments seriously”.

And, that “in the 2013-2014 school year, students will be presented with opportunities to recognize these special days.”

In response, Heather Bruce says the school is “still not recognizing Father’s Day this week and that is what the petition asked for”.

Although the message seems to represent “progress as far as next year goes,” Bruce says she’s asking for clarification, before deciding whether to let the issue go.

With middle ground in an emotional dispute proving to be elusive, some other parents seem to have found it.

James Vanderlinden, who has two children attending Astral Drive Elementary, suggests the controversy is more trouble than it’s worth.

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“To me, it’s a weekend celebration. We do our own thing at home and I think, like every family, would like to do the same thing. And, so what the school does, it doesn’t really matter.”

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