Educators speak out against B.C. school trustee’s anti-LGBTQ post

Trustees, BCSTA distance themselves from Chilliwack school trustee’s opinions

People are continuing to speak out against a Chilliwack school trustee who published a statement against gender identity policies in schools on Monday.

Barry Neufeld, a trustee for about 20 years in School District 33, said he would rather live in Russia or Paraguay, “which recently had the guts to stand up to these radical cultural nihilists.”

He was referring to the policy known as SOGI, or sexual orientation and gender identity. He cited a group known for being against the rights of the gay community, the American College of Pediatrics, posted an internet meme making fun of gender identity, and blamed the Liberal government for creating “a weapon of propaganda” and embracing “the LGBTQ lobby and … forcing this biologically absurd theory on children in our schools.”

Many in the education system quickly spoke up to distance themselves from Neufeld’s comments, including the Chilliwack School District’s superintendent, the BC School Trustee’s Association (BCSTA), and the Chilliwack District Parents Advisory Council. They took exception to Neufeld’s comments as they are not in line with the B.C. Human Rights Code.

READ: Chilliwack trustee calls LGBTQ school program ‘weapon of propaganda’

But union president of the Chilliwack Teacher’s Association, Lee-Anne Clarke, has also pointed out that Neufeld’s public statement is an attack on teachers.

“It’s very hurtful,” she says. “It’s hurtful to our LGBTQ community, it’s hurtful to our teachers, some of them who are part of the LGBTQ community. And this undermines the professionalism of my members. It undervalues all the work we’ve done to make things better for everyone, to make school more safe for everyone, to make it more inclusive and to be more accepting of differences.”

Teachers “know how to deal with controversial issues,” she points out, including sexual orienttion and gender identity. She said SOGI is about teaching in an inclusive classroom, and is not a prescriptive part of the curriculum like math or English.

“It comes up when it comes up,” she says. “It’s not a subject. There’s no SOGI class.”

Clarke said teachers just want safe, inclusive schools, “and to have a trustee talk about a ministry-approved curriculum like this is really hurtful.”

The BCSTA had published a statement of support for inclusion on September 22, likely in response to anti-SOGI groups holding meetings in some communities. And on Tuesday morning, the association released a pointed statement regarding Neufeld’s opinions.

“BCSTA does not support, nor agree with the position taken by Chilliwack school trustee Barry Neufeld. Our Association strongly believes that schools need to be safe and welcoming places for ALL students, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity, race, religion or background. It is important that we all stand up and defend our students and our staff against any incidents of prejudice, bullying or discrimination.”

Chilliwack school trustees weigh in

Criticism also came in from voices around Neufeld’s own board table.

Board chair Paul McManus responded to The Progress to say that:”Mr. Neufeld’s comments are his own personal opinions and he was not speaking on behalf of the School Board of Chilliwack.

“The Chilliwack School Board has not yet discussed the SOGI program in depth. As our policies and regulations indicate, we are committed to providing safe schools and a positive climate for all members of our school community.”

The board has not yet adopted a specific SOGI policy, but did review their current policies last fall to ensure they complied with revised legislative requirements for the BC Charter of Human Rights and Freedom and the BC Human Rights Code. More discussion is expected at the board level, according to the superintendent, Evelyn Novak.

Trustee Dan Coulter weighed in on the same forum chosen by Neufeld, Facebook.

“As a school trustee, I support the SOGI curriculum,” he said. “How can teaching respect and inclusion be a bad thing? Not only that but the law of the land demands it! The BC Human Rights Code, Canadian Human Rights Act and the Charter demand it. I’m glad that human rights commissions will be making a comeback to fight bigotry, fear, and ignorance.”

He continued:

“I have many LGBTQ friends and they are the toughest people you’ll ever meet. They have to be. It sickens me when I see the arguments against SOGI that always seem to veer into transphobia. Well it’s not acceptable and we ALL need to say so. I have friends that are Trans and I know students that are too. This hatred is aimed straight at who they are. It tries to make their existence illegitimate. It pisses me off! Our students and staff need to feel safe in our schools and a valued part of the school community – because they are!”

What is SOGI?

There are many people who have spoken up against the SOGI policies, and many people who have commented as such on Neufeld’s post from Monday.

But there also seems to be a lot of misinformation about what SOGI really is, and how it is used in the classroom. Chris Wejr, a principal at a Langley elementary school, has shared a website created by that school district that explains it through a Q&A format.

It says “there is no separate and distinct SOGI program or curriculum. Sexual orientation and gender identity are important topics that are interwoven through several curriculum areas, most notably, physical and health education, language arts, and social studies. How the topics are introduced to students is dependent on the age and stage of their development. These topics may also be discussed as they arise in the daily lives of students.”

It clears up some misconceptions, too. One of those misconceptions is that sexual acts are taught in the classroom.

“Sexuality as a concept is discussed starting in grade 4 (with the onset of puberty) but does not include discussions about sexual acts or practices. Secondary students need accurate information about relationships and safe sex. Lack of information can have significant consequences for youth.”

Rob Fleming, Minister of Education, spoke to the media Tuesday to say that while Neufeld shouldn’t be removed from his position, Fleming hopes he eventually has a change of heart on the subject.


@CHWKcommunity
jpeters@theprogress.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Kwanlin Dün First Nation chief Doris Bill holds up a signed copy of the KDFN <em>Lands Act</em> agreement during an announcement at the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre in Whitehorse on Oct. 20. Under the new act, called Nan kay sháwthän Däk’anúta ch’e (We all look after our land) in Southern Tutchone, KDFN will be able to allot citizens land to build their own houses on, for example, or to use for traditional activities. The First Nation will also be able to enforce laws around things like land access and littering. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Kwanlin Dün First Nation’s Lands Act comes into force

The act gives the First Nation the authority to manage, protect and enforce laws on its settlement lands

Two doctors in Watson Lake say they are at risk of losing their housing due to a Yukon Housing Corporation policy that only allows one pet per family. (Wikimedia Commons)
Healthcare workers in Watson Lake say housing pet policy could force them to leave

The Yukon Housing Corporation has threatened evictions for having more than one pet

The Many Rivers Counselling and Support Services building in Whitehorse on March 28, 2019. Three people who sat on Many Rivers’ board immediately before it closed for good say they were relieved to hear that the Yukon RCMP has undertaken a forensic audit into the now-defunct NGO’s financial affairs. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Former Many Rivers board members relieved to hear about forensic audit, wonder what took so long

Three people who sat on Many Rivers’ board immediately before it closed… Continue reading

Whitehorse General Hospital in Whitehorse on Feb. 14, 2019. The Yukon Employees’ Union and Yukon Hospital Corporation are at odds over whether there’s a critical staffing shortage at the territory’s hospitals. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
YEU, Yukon Hospital Corp. at odds over whether hospitals are understaffed

YEU says four nurses quit within 12 hours last week, a claim the YHC says is “inaccurate”

Two former Whitehorse Correctional Centre inmates, Ray Hartling and Mark Lange, have filed a class action against the jail, corrections officials and Yukon government on behalf of everyone who’s been placed in two restrictive units over the past six years. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Class action filed against Whitehorse Correctional Centre over use of segregation

Two former Whitehorse Correctional Centre inmates have filed a class action against… Continue reading

Smartphone showing various applications to social media services and Google. (Pixabay photo)
National media calling for level playing field with Google, Facebook

In Canada, Google and Facebook control 80 per cent of all online advertising revenues

Education Minister Tracy-Anne McPhee, right, before question period at the Yukon legislative assembly in Whitehorse on March 7, 2019. The Yukon government announced Oct. 19 it has increased the honoraria rates for school council members. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Honoraria increased for school council members

Members of school councils throughout the territory could soon receive an increased… Continue reading

Triple J’s Canna Space in Whitehorse on April 17, 2019, opens their first container of product. Two years after Canada legalized the sale of cannabis, Yukon leads the country in per capita legal sales. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Yukon leads Canadian cannabis sales two years after legalization

Private retailers still asking for changes that would allow online sales

A sign greets guests near the entrance of the Canada Games Centre in Whitehorse on June 11. The city announced Oct. 16 it was moving into the next part of its phased reopening plan with spectator seating areas open at a reduced capacity to allow for physical distancing. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
CGC reopening continues

Limited spectator seating now available

During Whitehorse city council’s Oct. 19 meeting, planning manager Mélodie Simard brought forward a recommendation that a proposed Official Community Plan amendment move forward that would designate a 56.3 hectare piece of land in Whistle Bend, currently designated as green space, as urban residential use. (Courtesy City of Whitehorse)
More development in Whistle Bend contemplated

OCP change would be the first of several steps to develop future area

asdf
EDITORIAL: Don’t let the City of Whitehorse distract you

A little over two weeks after Whitehorse city council voted to give… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Northwestel has released the proposed prices for its unlimited plans. Unlimited internet in Whitehorse and Carcross could cost users between $160.95 and $249.95 per month depending on their choice of package. (Yukon News file)
Unlimited internet options outlined

Will require CRTC approval before Northwestel makes them available

Most Read