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Danielle S. McLaughlin

Director of Education Emerita, Canadian Civil Liberties Association

Danielle McLaughlin was the Director of Education for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and Education Trust from 1988 to 2016. Recipient of the 2010-2011 Law Foundation of Ontario Community Leadership in Justice Fellowship, she spent the first 6 months of 2011 as a visiting fellow at the Faculty of Education at the University of Windsor. Danielle designed, developed and delivered CCLET’s Teaching Civil Liberties and Civil Liberties in the Schools programs that each year engage thousands of students from kindergarten to high schools, to faculties of education, to law schools in lively discussion about the conflicts of rights and freedoms that affect everyone who lives in a democracy. She is co-author of the That’s Not Fair! stories, written for civic engagement of young children www.thatsnotfair.ca. Danielle's book for kids 7-11 Kids Can Press is now available. A regular blogger about education and civil liberties at the HuffingtonPost.ca, Danielle believes that the best answer to a difficult question is usually another question.

Between 1997 and 2001, in addition to her educational and administrative duties, Danielle represented the Canadian Civil Liberties Association on the Toronto Police Services Board sub-committee on Race Relations.

Do Schools Need Record Checks?

Some schools and school boards have recently decided that, in order to protect children, everyone who is to spend any time with students must first have a police records check. On its face, this may sound like a good idea. In practice, it is fraught with many problems.
04/17/2014 06:15 EDT
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Helping Kids Turn Othering into a Critical Discussion

An African-Canadian woman I know became very tired of being asked which "island" she came from. Her family had lived in Canada for many, many generations, so her answer to this question was "Toronto Island." But what happens when a child is quizzed in this way? If we are not careful, our children will learn to internalize the assumptions that others make about them.
03/12/2014 05:27 EDT
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Getting Our Kids to Ask Critical Questions About Discrimination

Last week I was speaking about rights and freedoms to a high school law class. I asked the students if they could think of any laws that had changed in their life time. They knew that the alcohol limits for driving had changed. But when it came to changes that had brought about legislation against racial, gender, and other discrimination, they had to be reminded or even simply informed.
03/05/2014 05:08 EST

Can Metadata Solve Washroom Graffiti?

Instead of reassuring yourself that since you have nothing to hide, collection of metadata won't reveal anything interesting about you, ask your children how they feel about the proposed washroom math lesson. Then you can both stand up for your rights.
03/02/2014 08:56 EST
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Having Difficult Conversations With Kids

If parents and teachers want their children to grow up to be fine people and citizens of the world, the kind of people who make a difference, we need to be fearless. We need to engage our children in very difficult conversations. You know what I mean, the conversations we all dread.
02/05/2014 05:09 EST
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Be a Resolutionary -- and Help Your Kid Be One Too

I like to call us resolutionaries. We are the people who have the best intentions and make great plans for the year to come. We will quit our bad habits and develop new and healthy ones. Today, we are sending our children back to school for the first week of 2014. Let's make a resolution to help them develop healthy habits -- and stick to those new habits.
01/05/2014 11:37 EST
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How the Values Charter Will Affect Quebec's Children

Imagine your child's favourite teacher. This teacher is known to provide her students with an enriched classroom. Now imagine that this exemplary teacher is a person who subscribes to a religious faith for which she dresses in a particular fashion. Should she remove the outward signs of her faith so that she can keep teaching?
12/14/2013 01:17 EST
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How Would You Explain a Picket Line to Your Child?

Has your child ever seen a picket line? If you plan to shop at a Walmart in the U.S. you and your child may well see one this weekend. If your children ask what is happening, how will you explain it? The Canadian Civil Liberties Education Trust and TVO Parents can help you make the most of that "teachable moment" with a discussion about rights and freedoms.
11/28/2013 08:33 EST
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Teaching Kids to Think Critically at School

Recently, I was speaking with a group of teacher-candidates about the need to engage children at every age in thinking critically. If we think a rule is unfair, we want to ask the people who devised the rule what their purpose was.
09/26/2013 06:01 EDT
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The Youth That Canada Leaves Behind

Canada prides itself on its youth. We score sixth on the Organization for Economic and Co-operative Development's international evaluations of the education of 15-year-olds around the world. But some students are missing from these evaluations: the test is not administered to First Nations students, or students with intellectual disabilities, or newcomers learning English or French, or incarcerated youth. How many young people are we going to sweep under the rug?
08/12/2013 07:41 EDT
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Teaching Our Kids What Equality Really Means

Do your children know what equality means? Let's celebrate International Youth Day by helping our children to become the citizens we want them to be. Let's teach them to think critically about rights and freedoms so they can grow up to be the fair-minded people we need in this world.
08/12/2013 05:35 EDT
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The Turban Ban Doesn't Teach Kids to Play Fair

If we want our own children to learn to be courageous defenders of rights, we must first engage them in thinking critically about those rights. While adults may feel uncomfortable talking to children about the place of religion in society, we can still teach our children that people whose beliefs and practices differ from their own are deserving of respect and understanding.
06/13/2013 12:19 EDT

Even Children Should Know Their Rights

In 2011 the United Nations and all the countries in it adopted an agreement on human rights education and training. The agreement says that everyone has the right to an education that must include education about human rights -- even snarly kids. So why might this principal, and other educators like her, want to prohibit human rights education in her school?
05/14/2013 05:23 EDT
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Dress Codes Disguise Real Bullying Problems

A number of schools have decided that the bullying problem can be solved by instituting a uniform or a dress code. To many people, this sounds like a reasonable solution to the pervasive problem of bullying. To people who actually experience bullying, it can look ridiculous, if not dangerous.
05/03/2013 02:50 EDT
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Why Stop at Red Lights?

In my part of Toronto, I have noticed a new understanding of traffic regulation. Stop if it is convenient to do so, but if you are in a hurry, forget about it. If we only teach children that red means stop and green means go, we could be courting disaster.
04/16/2013 05:29 EDT

Do Canadian Teachers Truly Have the Freedom to Teach?

Recently, I have learned about two teachers who, in different circumstances, have been restricted from teaching material they would like to teach. We ask teachers to be creative, informative, and to engage their students in thinking critically about the world around them. What message do we send when we limit what they teach? Where should we draw the line?
03/08/2013 06:05 EST
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Should Teachers Wear Their Politics On Their Sleeves?

What does Yertle the Turtle have in common with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms? Excerpts from both have been banned from appearing on T-shirts in schools -- for being too political. The protesting teachers who were disciplined in Prince Rupert, B.C. apparently wore T-shirts emblazoned on the back with all the words contained in Section 2 of the Charter which guarantees our fundamental freedoms, including freedom of religion, opinion, expression, peaceful assembly, and association. But, is it reasonable for a school board to limit freedom of expression by determining that political expression is unacceptable in school? If it is, how can we teach history, literature, or even science and math?
02/05/2013 12:23 EST
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Teachers: The Classroom Is Not Your Pulpit

There is nothing to prevent teachers from having strong political beliefs or views or from joining political parties. We should, however expect that teachers understand that if they are using the classroom as a pulpit, they are contravening one of the purposes of education.
01/14/2013 12:37 EST
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We Should Be Proud of Pint-Sized Protestors

Recently, I heard a Grade 6 student explain that he and his friends had walked out of school to protest against a government measure that they believed had resulted in their teachers' rights being taken away. The principal was not impressed. I think we should be very impressed. What are our children in Canada seeing in the streets of our cities and towns? Idle No More, Occupy, protests in Ontario and Quebec by teachers and students -- and remember the G-20 protests in Toronto in 2010? While some of us looked the other way, the children are still watching.
12/29/2012 09:26 EST