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GUEST OPINION: Children are not compelled to read your signs

Picketers with the anti-abortion group Show the Truth hold graphic images opposite the Three Oaks Senior High School property in Summerside in this May 2019 file photo. - SaltWire File Photo
Picketers with the anti-abortion group Show the Truth hold graphic images opposite the Three Oaks Senior High School property in Summerside in this May 2019 file photo. - SaltWire File Photo

In response to the opinion piece written by Ms. Ann Marie Tomlin (What is the school branch’s motive?, Feb. 13), I was very pleased to read of director of the Public Schools Branch Parker Grimmer’s request for a safe zone for students at the Island’s high schools against being blindsided by what I consider predatory demonstrators. 

I was deeply upset last year when I read of adults exercising extremely poor judgment showing up at Island high schools displaying gory, graphic pictures of fetuses to high school students. 

They can lay claim that students see much more graphic things in “real life”, and peddle whatever distortions of reality they choose. The truth is students are mandated to be in school. 

The demonstrators are choosing a venue where children are compelled to be. It’s not the beach. It’s not the mall. Kids are required to be in school on the Island until they are 16 years old and if they are absent, there may be negative academic consequences. That’s why I call it predatory demonstrating. 

These demonstrators know they have a captive audience. Moreover, they care not one whit about the mental health of the children to whom they are presenting this material. They don’t know if there’s a young girl in the crowd who became pregnant through rape, had an abortion and now is thoroughly traumatized by the experience. They don’t know if there’s a young person in the crowd who has never seen such things and is likewise traumatized. 

I was a counsellor in a high school when the aldermen in the city decided to do something about the opiate epidemic by sending a speaker into the high school (never vetted by school personnel). This alleged “expert” stood up in front of students showing horribly graphic pictures of dying drug addicts, babies deformed by drug addiction, injection site sores — pictures so graphic that students were physically ill in the nurse’s office. He spoke of drug addicts in such derogatory terms that those students sitting in the audience with parents, siblings, and/or loved ones affected by drug addiction were in my office in crisis for days afterwards. In addition, he announced if you used heroin even once you would be addicted. So those students who had tried it even once and didn’t become addicted felt invincible. The destructiveness of that one event was immeasurable. 

I read Ms. Ann Marie Tomlins’ guest opinion in the Guardian defending the demonstrator’s practice and attacking Mr. Grimmer’s request. I’ve had one of those “great discussions” Ms. Tomlins references. It was a “great discussion” precipitated by a hijacking by Ms. Tomlin and the chair of a writer’s group I was attending who decided to derail the gathering under the guise of “teaching” us how to write an op-ed. No prior notice of a change in the format was afforded any of the attendees, so we were as blindsided as the students at the high schools. 

Ms. Tomlins noted she is thoroughly convinced schools are teaching about abortion and school personnel are encouraging students to have abortions. When I challenged her on these beliefs, she ultimately admitted she has never seen the health curriculum of any school. I have. I know of no health curriculum that teaches about abortion as an approved method, nor have I in my 30-year plus career in education ever counselled any student to obtain an abortion, nor did I know any colleague who did. 

Finally, Ms. Tomlins has the audacity to cast herself as the victim of her own provocative behaviour. The victimizer as victim is the ultimate ploy of those determined to do as they wish despite the cost to others. How repellant. I felt utterly betrayed at the writer’s group by the chairperson. Unlike the students at school, I had the ability and means to walk out, which is exactly what I did. 

I did not and will not be held hostage to someone else’s overly determined persistence that theirs is the only opinion that matters. I certainly do not believe that minor children without the resources I had at my disposal should be held hostage by such individuals.


Laverne V. MacInnis has worked as a school counsellor and lives in Murray Harbour. 

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