Superintendent Evelyn Novak and Trustee Dan Coulter were among the audience for a talk from Matt Carruthers, the B.C. SOGI Education lead, at the annual BCSTA Trustee Academy in Richmond over the weekend. (Photo: BCSTA)

Select Chilliwack school trustees attend BCSTA ‘academy’

Sexual orientation and gender identity hot topics among provincial school trustees

School trustees had the chance to learn more about the sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) teacher resources over the weekend, and a handful of Chilliwack’s trustees took that offer.

Trustees Dan Coulter, Bob Patterson, and board chair Paul McManus joined Chilliwack School District superintendent Evelyn Novak at the BC School Trustee Association’s annual Trustee Academy in Richmond. While the focus of the academy covered a wide breadth of education topics, with numerous speakers, the two-day event also included much discussion surrounding SOGI and transgender awareness.

Coulter says the weekend was “terrific,” and really opened his eyes to how strongly other districts have embraced transgender students, teachers, staff and parents.

“There are no trustees, other than in our district, that are against it that I can find,” Coulter said. “And the minister [of education] said he was interested in implementing despite the efforts of one ‘small but well-funded’ group. He was not deterred by them.”

‘They’ are Culture Guard, and its leader Kari Simpson. They are against teachers using a government-approved resource called SOGI 123. And so is Chilliwack trustee Barry Neufeld; he took to Facebook to argue against its use back in October. Neufeld quickly apologized for offending people, but has since aligned himself with Culture Guard. They held a rally to support Neufeld and defend their views last Tuesday, where Neufeld spoke as a special guest.

At the rally Neufeld accused the government of ushering in a pro-LGBTQ agenda without consulation or explanation. Trustee Heather Maahs, who also has spoken up about fears surrounding SOGI 123, was also at the rally but not as a speaker.

Niether trustee attended the BCSTA’s Trustee Academy. Either did trustees Silvia Dyck or Walt Krahn. The plenary speakers included a transgender advocate and author, Ivan Coyote, and Matt Curruthers, the B.C. SOGI education lead.

Coyote’s presentation had the room enraptured, said Coulter.

“They were terrific, an amazing storyteller,” he said.

While SOGI and SOGI 123 were a focus of the weekend, he added that this is not the first anyone has heard of it, despite Culture Guard saying it’s been ushered in quietly.

“It’s been talked about for a long time, and Kari [Simpson] has been talking about this a long time,” he said.

Still, the messages are important to hear, Coulter said.

“What really resonated for me was that we run public institutions, a public school system. Why can’t every single person access them? You can’t really call it a public school if it’s not for everyone,” he said.

“I’m in a wheelchair. Public buildings are all made accessible for me. Why aren’t they accessible for everyone?”

He said whether school boards accept SOGI 123 teacher materials or not is both relevant and irrelevant.

“It’s irrelevant because schools have to follow the Human Rights Code,” Coulter said. “If they’re not using the actual SOGI they’re using something that approximates it. But you need the leader of the school district to support all students, and it really sends a message throughout the entire school district if you have trustees taking shots at it, or targeting transgender students.”

And to be clear, he said, those who don’t support SOGI often don’t support other rights of the LGBTQ community, such as gay marriage or same sex couples adopting.

“These things are not controversial in the rest of Canada, gay marriage is legalized by a Conservative government,” he added. “(Culture Guard’s) views are extreme, including the views on transgender people.”

It’s estimated that 10 per cent of the population have a different sexual orientation or gender identity than their birth gender.

“That’s 1,300 of our students (in Chilliwack),” he said.


@CHWKcommunity
jpeters@theprogress.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

UPDATE: All horses safe and sound after Cloverdale barn goes up in flames

Sandy Zalit thanks fire crews that worked for hours to extinguish blaze on 184th Street

VIDEO: Sleepy Gonzales sounds off as ‘Play Surrey’ contest winners

Fleetwood-based band got serious as a foursome just last year

Democracy Direct invites MP Hogg to speak July 17

Electoral coalition to confirm candidates next week

Builder of new Pattullo Bridge to be chosen after three-month ‘RFQ’ period

Local residents are ‘one step closer to a safer crossing,’ according to government release Monday

VIDEO: Visual recap of Vancouver Island MusicFest

Walk Off The Earth, Passenger, Arlo Guthrie among highlights

Trudeau’s youth council divided over Trans Mountain pipeline purchase

A letter signed by 16 past and present members was made public today, asking the federal government to reverse course

Hulk Hogan reinstated into wrestling Hall of Fame

Hogan had used racial slurs caught on video when talking about his daughter sleeping with a black man

Coco the cat survives horrific house fire wrapped in a blanket

Found in the laundry hours after Chilliwack firefighters douse blaze that destroyed five structures

‘Lava bomb’ through roof of tour boat injures 22 in Hawaii

“An explosion occurred near the shoreline hurling hot lava rocks towards the boat and injuring several passengers”

B.C. teen meets Nicolas Cage

Filming mob movie in downtown Vernon, B.C.

Critics claim Trump “defended a tyrant”

Trump questions US intel, not Putin, on Russia 2016 meddling

B.C. MLAs choose new children’s watchdog

Jennifer Charlesworth has worked in government, social services

B.C. reporter calls out immigration photo on social media as fake news

A Vancouver reporter is calling out a British politician for spreading fake news

Most Read