“Radical” gender agendas have no place in Campbell River schools according to a group of parents.
A group concerned about the implementation of the government-mandated Sexual Orientation Gender Identity guidelines in public schools shared their worries with the Campbell River school board at a public meeting Tuesday night.
“As parents, and I hope you guys as well, we all want to protect our children,” said Vanessa McLean, who spoke on behalf of the group. “We want them to be healthy and thrive and to do what is best for them. We must be their biggest advocates. We cannot sit by and allow radical, biased agendas to infiltrate our schools and prey upon the vulnerability of our children, pushing beliefs and values that are contrary to evidence-based research.”
On Sept. 8, 2016 the minister of education announced that references to sexual orientation and gender identity were required to bring district school policies in line with the July 2016 amendments to the B.C. Human Rights Code.
SOGI123 grew from this requirement to “help educators make schools inclusive and safe for students of all sexual orientations and gender identities.”
The SOGI website outlines 10 key components, including incorporating appropriate and respectful language, allowing students to self-identify (which means they choose what name they go by and which pronouns they want to be addressed as), and incorporating classroom materials and activities that contain positive images and accurate information about sexual and gender diversity.
SOGI is expected to be included in the school curriculum as a thread that can be addressed throughout many subjects. The SOGI123 website provides lesson plans that fit in with the current B.C. curriculum but are SOGI inclusive as well as video links and book suggestions in both English and French.
“What is being created is an environment in which anybody in the school community can feel safe and represented and included and that is a wide spectrum from whatever religious beliefs that people have to how they identify as human beings,” said Superintendent Tom Longridge at the meeting.
McLean, however, doesn’t believe sexual orientation or gender identity should be discussed in school and especially not with elementary-aged children.
“I’m really asking that this completely be removed from our school systems in School District 72,” she said.
Chris McCay agreed with McLean, adding that the SOGI123 resource package is offensive to his Christian beliefs and in violation of his right to religious freedom.
“Unlike the radical LGBTQ lobby we do not expect our beliefs to be taught in public schools, but Christian families and non-Christian families have an equal right to educate in our non-Christian school system,” he said. “We also have an equal right to have our values and beliefs respected in that process and not trampled.”
He said that he feels that telling or implying to children that changing gender is a good thing, starting as early as Kindergarten, is highly dangerous.
“We thus expect these schools to leave these subjects at the discretion of parents to be address at home,” he said. “We do not endorse bullying or any sort against person for any reason but the prevention of bullying does not require the normalization of behaviours that we would regard as anti-Christian.”
Trustee John Kerr said they were presenting their concerns to the wrong people.
“I would point out that in matters of curriculum implementation, the board does not have the discretion to ignore or disregard directives from the minister or the Ministry of Education,” he said.
“It is changing times,” said Susan Wilson, school district board chair. “There are a lot of things that are being looked at differently, incorporated differently and it is always difficult when there is change. I think that we can all agree that children is what we are here for and that is what we need to keep as our bottom line as we work through some of these challenging issues.”
The board encouraged the attendees to write to the ministry with their concerns.