4 Apr 2011

Teachers tell court BC government neglected children's educational rights in Mormon fundamentalist community

The Vancouver Sun - BC, Canada April 1, 2011

B.C. teachers blame government for failing Bountiful’s children

By Daphne Bramham, Vancouver Sun columnist

VANCOUVER — The B.C. government got another blast Friday for its failure to deal with the fundamentalist Mormon community of Bountiful during the closing arguments in the reference case to determine whether the current law prohibiting polygamy is valid.

Robin Trask, lawyer for the B.C. Teachers Federation, said the government has failed in its duty to ensure that the children in the polygamous community are getting a proper education. She blamed both the Independent School Act and the people who administer it.

On Thursday, Cheryl Milne of the Canadian Coalition for the Rights of Children and the David Asper Centre for Constitutional Rights accused the government of six decades of “acquiescence” when it comes to Bountiful.

She said it has violated the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child by failing to protect them from sexual exploitation, abuse, trafficking and by failing to provide them with the educational opportunities they are entitled to.

Several experts testified during the trial that poor educational outcomes are common in all polygamous communities worldwide, witnesses who remain in Bountiful and who have left the community indicated gaps in what they were taught.

There are two schools in Bountiful that combined received nearly $2 million a year in funding under the government’s Independent School Act. The one school – Bountiful Elementary Secondary School – (BESS) is operated by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and the other is Mormon Hills School, which is operated by another fundamentalist Mormon group led by Winston Blackmore.

In the past 20 years, only 13 students who have ever attended BESS have completed Grade 12 and only seven have received adult graduation diplomas.

Since MHS opened in 2003/04, six students have received Grade 12 certificates and five have received adult graduation diplomas.

Independent schools are required to teach is “critical thinking,” Trask said. Students by the end of Grade 6 are also expected to be able to “assess equality and fairness in Canada with reference to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms” and “compare individual and collective rights and responsibilities in Canada with those in other countries.”

Additionally, they are supposed to be taught sex education, life skills and given career counselling.

Even though the schools have been inspected more often than other independents, Trask quoted several witnesses who said they were never taught any of that.

Truman Oler said religious instruction took up as much as two hours of every day. All that he was taught about the Charter was that it protected religious freedom. And far from being taught to think critically, Oler remembered being instructed to “obey everything you were told by the prophet or the bishop.”

An FLDS member – who testified anonymously as Witness #3 – said no one at the school seemed surprised when at 17 she was married to a man in his early 40s or that the sister-wife whom she rode the bus with was only 15.

Trask noted that when Edward Vanderboom, the independent school inspector, testified that he was not aware of any inspectors asking about the marital status of any of the students. Asked if it would concern him that a Grade 9 student was married to a man in his 40s, Vanderboom replied that it would “give pause for reflection and we would likely need to consider what actions we would need to take and what further enquiries we would need to engage in.”

She noted that the independent school authorities are required to report suspected abuse.

Witness #3 said sex education was never taught nor were life skills. Although she is taking summer courses at a Utah college, she wasn’t aware until she was told in court that her Grade 12 certificate from BESS would not be accepted by any Canadian university.

In closing, Trask said the BCTF supports the continued criminalization of polygamy.

However, she said, it believes the law should be interpreted so that women and girls are not criminals since they have only married once. It’s only those who take multiple spouses who are criminals.

This article was found at:


Mormon fundamentalist leader must testify in tax case and reveal details of polygamy and child brides in Bountiful

Intellectual abuse of Mormon fundamentalist children means few will finish high school or go to college

Canadian polygamy case hears additional witnesses, school that intellectually abuses children given top ranking

Canadian polygamy case hears additional witnesses, school that intellectually abuses children given top ranking

Canadian polygamy case hears evidence on high rates of teen pregnancies in fundamentalist Mormon community

Brother of FLDS bishop describes intellectual abuse, child labour, spiritual abuse and loveless religion in Canadian polygamy case

Evidence in Canadian polygamy case shows Mormon leader trafficked his daughters and other child brides to US

FLDS children raised for a life of poverty and servitude to their insane pedophile prophet Warren Jeffs

Author who escaped abuse in US polygamy cult explains why Canadian constitutional case is so important in both countries


  1. Bountiful students get A grades, school gets a D

    Discrepancies shine light on B.C.’s polygamous community’s education system


    There were only A students in the Grade 10, 11 and 12 classes at the government-supported Mormon Hills School in the polygamous community of Bountiful, B.C. in 2012.

    The average marks ranged from a low of 84 per cent in Grade 12 English to a high of 91 per cent in Grade 11 social studies and Grade 10 math.

    But that all changed when students wrote provincial exams.

    The students’ best average mark was 74 per cent in Grade 11 social studies. Their worst were bare passes in Grade 12 communications (53 per cent), Grade 10 math (54 per cent) and Grade 10 science (56 per cent).

    This “significant discrepancy” was one of a number of problems external evaluators found at the independent school that is run by Winston Blackmore.

    Blackmore is the father of more than 115 children and ‘husband’ to 26 wives. So, unsurprisingly, almost everyone connected with the school is related: the 182 students, the 11 teachers, the staff and the school’s directors.

    Blackmore, his brother and one of his sons are directors. Six of the teachers are named Blackmore; at least one is Winston’s daughter. And the school’s secretary is one of Blackmore’s so-called celestial wives, who is also the secretary for Blackmore’s company, J.R. Blackmore & Sons.

    Even six months after the three-member evaluation team first went to the school near Creston in October 2012, they found on their followup visit that student assessment “continues to challenge the staff.”

    Other problems at the kindergarten-to-Grade 12 school included: no comments on report cards as required by the Education Ministry; “haphazard tracking” of graduation transition portfolios; and, no information about the modified instructional programs for special needs children.

    The deficiencies were outlined in several reports made to B.C.’s Office of the Inspector of Independent Schools, which were provided in response to an access to information request.

    Other problems included not recording student grades promptly. As the evaluation report tartly noted: “Student grades should be recorded at the time the student completes the course and entered on the student’s 1704 (permanent student record) accordingly — not written on a Post-it Note to be entered the following academic year.”

    Evaluators found that some students received course credits for classes they didn’t take.

    And they questioned whether some credits were even valid since there was no supporting documentation that the required instructional hours had been fulfilled.

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  2. There was no written policy regarding transfer credits to college. That may not be that surprising since course overviews for apprenticeship and workplace 11, math and Earth Science “continue to remain skeletal,” according to the most recent report.

    If there is any good thing to be said, it is that Mormon Hills isn’t as bad as it was in 2008.

    That year, evaluators concluded there was no way to tell what, if anything, the 14 students in Grades 8 and 9 were learning since all of them had “virtually identical reports.”

    They also pointed out — among other failings — that five of the teachers weren’t accredited and that the health and career program was being taught using a web-based version even though none of the school’s 20 computers were connected to the Internet.

    What hasn’t changed is the continuing and deliberate policy of the evaluators, bureaucrats and politicians not to question what is being taught in the government-accredited Mormon Church History course.

    It’s most recently described as using “material and literature from Mormon Church History as well as the Bible, Book of Mormon and the sermons of LeRoy Johnson.”

    Among Johnson’s revelations, for example, is that God determines who will marry whom and passes that on to the church’s prophet/president. It’s that teaching that has resulted in girls as young as 12 being forced by church leaders into ‘celestial’ or ‘plural’ marriages, which are inevitably reserved only for the most powerful of the men in the community.

    What is being taught is not Mormonism in the commonly understood meaning of that word, which is the doctrine of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

    (Blackmore has done what he can to confuse the issue by registering the mainstream church’s name in British Columbia. Only last week, the LDS church filed a civil suit in B.C. Supreme Court asking for its name back.)

    What Blackmore teaches his followers is a religious doctrine based on the teachings of Mormonism’s founder, Joseph Smith, that has been distilled and changed over the years since the mainstream church renounced polygamy in 1890 to justify polygamy.

    Despite all that, taxpayers’ money just keeps on flowing to Mormon Hills School: just under $3 million in the last four years, not including the amount of ministry staff time it has taken to get the school to comply with the basic requirements.

    Why does this continue? Because stopping it would require much more rigorous scrutiny of the school.

    It would likely require amending the Independent School Act to broaden the restrictions on what is taught in independent schools.

    And that would require political will — something that is as distressingly lacking on every aspect of the Bountiful file now, as it has for more than 65 years.