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UPDATE: Burnaby Parents Voice calls for halt to Lady Gaga Pink Shirt Day video project

Burnaby Parents' Voice wants Premier Christy Clark and Education Minister George Abbott to stop teachers from posting a video on You Tube of students dancing to a song by Lady Gaga.

The project, dubbed the Pink Project, involved students from Metro Vancouver and New York dancing to Born This Way as a message of acceptance to mark the anti-bullying Pink Shirt Day on Feb. 29.

Parents' Voice, which opposed the introduction of Burnaby school district's anti-homophobic bullying policy last spring, said in a press release that it "questioned the legality and the educational purpose of posting students' images on the Internet, as well as the appropriateness of Lady Gaga as a learning resource in public schools."

The group also criticized Lady Gaga's use of sexual images in her own video of the song, and the song's lyrics.

“Will this project reduce bullying? Not likely," said Gordon World of Burnaby Parents’ Voice in the release. "They claim this sends a 'positive social message' of acceptance of self and others. Not for overweight kids, anorexic kids, or those who don’t dance well. Not those who resist their school’s promotion of Lady Gaga’s ‘sex sells’ worldview.”

Participating schools included Burnaby's Alpha secondary and Confederation Park Education Through the Arts School.

Bonnie Ishii, music and dance teacher at Confederation Park, said parents of participating grades 3 to 7 students all signed off on the project.

"The parents were very informed."

The students were not shown Lady Gaga's video, Ishii said, but notices were sent home explaining the project, providing lyrics to the song and seeking parental permission for students to be shot on video and the resulting project posted on You Tube.

She said about four parents were not comfortable with their kids being on You Tube, so in those cases the children participated in the entire process except for the video shoot itself.

All the participating schools used common choreography for the chorus but each school was free to do its own choreography for the rest of the song. The fact they used a popular song made the project more engaging for the kids, Ishii said.

The project also created an opportunity for the Confederation Park students to learn, write and reflect on how dance can be used as a means of expression or to relay a message.

The students "are thrilled, they can hardly wait to see themselves," she said of the project being posted to You Tube, which happened Tuesday.

The project's co-creator, Darren Mitzel, principal of MacCorkindale elementary in Vancouver, said the idea stemmed from a flash mob dance Vancouver students did last year at Oakridge mall around the same anti-bullying theme.

One of the goals was to use social media in a positive way and to foster acceptance, not just of different sexual orientations but of any differences, from race to special needs.

This year, they decided to involve more students and the Vancouver organizers were even contacted by students in New York who had seen last year's flash mob dance on You Tube and wanted to participate.

All the students, apart from those in New York, wore pink shirts that read "Acceptance — Born This Way."

A total of 11 schools participated in the end after a few dropped out because they didn't like the song. "We had really made it clear these were the words, this is the song so people could really make a solid choice on whether or not they wanted to partake or not."

Mitzel believes some of the lyrics, such as use of the words "gay, lesbian or Asian," parents might have found "it wasn't for them."

But the lyrics also reflected the message they wanted to spread: "We are who we are ... This is the way we are, so you can't really criticize us for that."

As for the Parents' Voice complaint, Mitzel said everyone's entitled to their opinion about the project.

"Everyone has their own opinion and some people choose to voice them in their own way."

wchow@burnabynewsleader.com

twitter.com\@WandaChow

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