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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 Danielle's book for kids 7-11 Kids Can Press is now available. A regular blogger about education and civil liberties at the, 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 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

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

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

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

Can Animals Make Policy Fun?

Apart from the fact that the very word "policy" sends many of us into instant slumber, this short picture book can be used to introduce concepts and questions about how and why decisions are made. Knowing the "why" -- or the policy behind our rules and laws can be vital for anyone who must learn to live with the rule of law. And that would be your average four-year-old.
12/13/2012 05:46 EST

How Food Drives Can Alienate Families

One local CBC radio station celebrates an annual event called "Sounds of the Season." The price of admission is a donation of a food item to the local food bank. This annual event is beginning to feel a lot like "them" and "us" to me. Drawing lines between those who can make a donation and those who must ask for help is not going to benefit any of us.
11/27/2012 08:01 EST

Why Your Child Should Complain

Is your child a complainer? Do you hear "that's not fair!" everyday? If so, it's time to celebrate. Your child could be the next advocate who stands up to bullies; the one who works toward a solution for climate change, or who fights for access to justice or against inequality. What would our lives be like now without the complainers?
11/01/2012 05:09 EDT

How Bill 115 Robs Us Teachers Of Our Dignity

Bill 115 is unfair. Pre-emptive law making denies the rights of employees "just in case." How can we inculcate the habits of democracy into our students when they observe and experience unreasonable restrictions on the rights of the very people who are charged with teaching them about fairness? What if teachers behaved like this government? Imagine children being told that they will not be allowed to seek permission to create a club because the school doesn't trust them to make the proper arrangements -- nor to go out for recess because they might misbehave. It would not take long for someone to shout, "That's not fair."
09/12/2012 12:33 EDT

Are we Bullying the Bullies?

It is commendable that, as a society, we want to make it clear that no one should suffer persistent harassment and abuse. In our collective zeal to protect our children from harm, we have seen fit to institute a wide variety of anti-bullying curricula, programs, and in some jurisdictions, even legislation. But what else may be happening? While we want to ensure that the most vulnerable among us are protected from the kind of negative behaviours that many adults can recall vividly, we may be using our schools to bully the "bullies".
08/20/2012 05:11 EDT

The Problem With Bumper-Sticker Wisdom: "No Loving, No Shoving"

No one is disputing the need to keep children safe and to discourage them from assaulting or inappropriately touching one another. But if we think that a simple slogan will work, we are sadly off the mark. It will be wrongly interpreted to mean both that any contact short of a shove is okay, or that no demonstration of affection is acceptable. Is this what we want our children to learn?
06/08/2012 12:10 EDT

You Have the Right to Offend Me

This week, a grade 12 student was suspended for wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the words "Life is wasted without Jesus." Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects both freedom of religion and freedom of expression, but nowhere does it protect people from feeling offended. In a diverse and complex society, learning to disagree without being disagreeable may be a survival skill.
05/04/2012 01:45 EDT

Forget Sesame Street! Your Kid Should Read the Charter

When the Canadian Charter of Right and Freedoms became the law in 1982, little did we know what a handy teaching tool it would become. Not many children have been introduced to the Charter, but most of them understand questions about freedom and fairness. How can a limit to freedom be reasonable?
04/17/2012 11:08 EDT