The discussion on gender identity in Chilliwack is far from over.
The school district is under the spotlight following a public statement by a long-time school board trustee, slamming sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) curriculum that is now available to all teachers in the province.
That trustee, Barry Neufeld, has not responded to a request to speak about his views, but he did issue an apology two days after he posted a rant on his Facebook page.
In the original post, he commended Russia and Paraguay for their strength in fighting “cultural nihilists.” He likened gender identity acceptance to child abuse, and made it clear he is supporter of “traditional family values.”
In his apology two days later to those who may have been hurt by his words, he said that more discussion still needed to be had surrounding SOGI.
Now, the Chilliwack School District has published a PowerPoint presentation on their website that spells out the district’s planned implementation of SOGI in schools. That report likely will be a part of the superintendent’s report at the Nov. 7 public meeting.
“We strongly believe that our schools need to be safe and welcoming places for all, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, race, religion or background, and that everyone deserves to be welcomed, included and respected in a safe learning environment while being fully and completely themselves,” it says.
That includes “all individuals regardless of where they identify on the sexual orientation or gender identity spectrums, including but not limited to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, two-spirit, heterosexual, pansexual and cisgender.”
“Sexual orientation and gender identity” (SOGI) is a term used by the BC Human Rights Code to describe an area of prohibited discrimination, the presentation reminds the viewer. However a group that is backing Neufeld’s initial statement, called the Culture Guard, is committed to shouting down SOGI and fighting for what they feel are Canada’s values.
They have been holding meetings across the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley to garner support for their anti-SOGI movement, led by Kari Simpson.
They have not held a public event in Chilliwack to date. But while Neufeld has apologized for hurting people with his comments, the Culture Guard has latched onto his words.
In a petition of support they are publicizing, they say, “Let’s send a clear message to the radical left-wing sex activists within the BCTF: that they don’t get to abuse our children and the public education system for their political agenda.”
The presentation on the Chilliwack School District website clears up some of the statements made by Culture Guard.
The main point is that 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.”
It gives a timeline for discussions to come over the next year, beginning with an update to the board regarding Strategic Planning and SOGI, curriculum connections and resources this fall.
The discussion will continue to refer back to the Safe School Policy and be in partnership with the Ministry of Education. For those with more questions, the school district points to a website created by the Langley School District.