‘Kind of feel let down as not being recognized as a mother.’: Barrie mom says child’s school changes Mother’s Day theme
A Toronto school changed its outdoor sign message about Mother's Day after complaints it was "exculsionary"
with files from The Canadian Press
Kissondra Niemeyer-McKenzie says she feels let down that her son’s senior kindergarten class is not doing a project specifically geared toward Mother’s Day.
The Barrie woman says she received a notice from the school the other day that the kids are doing a special project but rather than centred on Mother’s Day or Father’s Day this year, the focus will be on something she referred to as ‘grown-ups who love us.”
Niemeyer-McKenzie says those gifts brought home from school by children are special.
“I was looking forward to seeing what it is, but kind of feel let down as not being recognized as a mother.”
Earlier this week, a woman called out a Toronto elementary school for posting what she felt was a “harmful” and “exclusionary” Mother’s Day greeting on its outdoor message board.
The message read:
“Life does not come with a manual. It comes with a mom.”
The woman felt the signage should have been more inclusive in light of the many non-traditional families in the wider community
After fielding a number of calls and emails from people, a generic message was posted on the outdoor sign.
A spokesperson for the Toronto District School Board said the original message was a collective quote from Grade 6 students to “share how much they care for and depend on their moms.”
Niemeyer-McKenzie appreciates there are different family structures.
The registered early childhood educator works at a private Barrie preschool where she says Mother’s and Father’s Day are celebrated while arrangements are made for kids in different situations.
“We work with the parents in regard to what they would prefer,” she says. “Usually just working to make a gift for a role model in their (the child’s) life, whether it’s male or female. It could be a grandparent, an uncle or just someone they live with.”
Niemeyer-McKenzie says for children with moms, the kids spend the week before making pots of flowers or other crafts.
Barrie 360 asked both the public and catholic boards if there was any directive in terms of how Mother’s and Father’s Day should be celebrated.
“There is no board directive,” said a spokesperson for the Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board in an email. “Classroom teachers plan their programming based on curriculum expectations and classroom needs.”
In an email, the Simcoe County District School board said that “each school year, staff are made aware of the various days of observance that are supported by the board, including Mother’s Day, and are mindful to acknowledge the various mother figures that have an impact in our life.”
The board added that schools may also choose to celebrate International Day of Families to celebrate all families.
Each school year, staff are made aware of the various days of observance that are supported by the board, including Mother’s Day. As a system, we recognize Mother’s Day, and are mindful to acknowledge the various mother figures that have an impact in our life. Schools may also choose to celebrate International Day of Families to celebrate all families.
The issue around being supportive of kids in different family situations during Mother’s and Father’s Day has also been front and centre in Quebec this week.
The controversial decision by teachers at a Quebec school to replace Mother’s Day events with a celebration of parents has caused ripples all the way to the provincial legislature, but supporters say such moves can benefit children.
The school service centre that oversees La Chanterelle school in Quebec City said the teachers made the decision — which was announced to parents by email — because several students in their classes don’t have a mother or father, while others are in foster homes.
“It is clear … that this initiative was motivated by the teachers’ benevolent intentions towards the students in their class,” the Centre de services scolaire de la Capitale said in a statement posted on social media. “But, clearly, their communication was clumsy and could have been misunderstood and misinterpreted, and we are sorry.”
The apology came after Quebec Conservative Leader Éric Duhaime this week shared on Twitter the email sent to La Chanterelle parents, asking Quebec Education Minister Bernard Drainville if he would allow “the woke to abolish Mother’s Day.”
Drainville said he doesn’t want to see Mother’s Day and Father’s Day disappear from Quebec schools but understands that in some circumstances, teachers have to adapt to the realities of their students.
“Honestly, I can’t believe I’m in front of you today to reiterate the importance of Mother’s Day and the importance of Father’s Day,” he told reporters in Quebec City Wednesday. “The idea of replacing Mother’s Day or Father’s Day with Parent’s Day, I don’t agree with that.”
Rachel Langevin, a professor at McGill University who studies childhood trauma, said for some children, a classroom celebration of Mother’s Day could be difficult.
“In a context, for example, of a child that recently lost a parent, it could be re-traumatizing, to have a celebration of Mother’s Day for that child that just lost their mother,” she said.
But whether that kind of a celebration would affect a child depends on many factors, including when the loss occurred. “Teachers are the best to know what’s going on in their students’ lives,” she said.