The Campbell River Mirror has asked the candidates for school trustee questions around public questions, and we will be running the answers in the candidates’ own words in the days leading up to the Oct. 20 election. We did ask both Susan Wilson and Shannon Briggs to answer them too, though each has won by acclamation. Wilson chose to answer the questions, but Briggs declined, citing time constraints around a recent move. Manfred Hack submitted his answers late and have been added to the end.
4) As SOGI has been a contentious issue in recent months, are you in favour or opposed to it? If you are in favour of SOGI, what do you think the Ministry of Education or a local board of education could do to clear up any misconceptions or respond to concerns, e.g. parental rights? If you are opposed to SOGI, what can you propose as an alternative to make public school environments more inclusive for LGBTQ+ students?
Susan Wilson – I support the intention of SOGI 123 regarding inclusiveness and valuing diversity. Both the Ministry of Education and local school boards have responded with further information to correct misinterpretations and misunderstanding of SOGI 123. Parents were involved with the development of this initiative. Locally, parents have been directed to discuss their concerns with the classroom teacher, school principal, and superintendent, and they could also join their school PAC. As well they have been invited to express their individual concerns in writing for a written response.
Peter Sutherland – SOGI really has been a contentious issue in recent months for our community. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms has identified the need for SOGI. However, how to accommodate this in our school system should be done with proven and effective teaching strategies and with input from all stakeholders. I do not agree with radical ideologies from either side and would look for mutuality in moving this item forward. There are many, many more needs in our districts schools that would benefit from the passion and energy that has been displayed recently.
Christian Stapff – I am in strong support of this program! The SOGI123 program is evidence-based and well-researched. It has been developed by professionals who understand the challenges faced by the LGBTQ community. When 64% of LGBTQ students feel unsafe in schools something needs to be done to educate all students to become more inclusive. When the suicide rate for LGBTQ+ students is 7-9 times higher than the “normal” population, we have an obligation to act and protect.
Both the Ministry of Education and the local boards have a duty to listen to all viewpoints and they also have a duty to question unsupported assertions made by anyone just based on their belief. The SOG123 program was developed with teaching that being inclusive, just and empathetic are foundations for good human behaviour. Moreover, PACs have been involved in getting information from parents to the developers of the program.
Joyce McMann – The implementation of SOGI policies and practices by School District 72 is a direct extension of the inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity in human rights legislation. I see diversity in sexual orientation and gender identity as naturally human, and the need for care in including diversity in the school experience, as restorative action to address generations of painful discrimination.
SOGI 123 resources provide a variety of materials that can be accessed by everyone, but are focused on the needs of teachers and parents who are seeking understanding about sexual orientation and gender identity and how to share that at school and home. I think the availability of a resource with this scope is a necessary support for teachers as they strive to include positive SOGI images and values in their classrooms and schools. I believe it is important for children/people of diverse orientations and identities to see their reality reflected in the world around them, including classroom resources. I recognize the need for good judgment in choosing materials that are appropriate to classroom circumstances. I am confident that teachers are competent in meeting that challenge.
I am aware that there is fear that teachers are using resources as set curriculum to influence and destabilize very young children, and that SOGI 123 has opened the door to practices that endanger children without the consent or knowledge of parents. I have heard frightful allegations of intent and practice that I believe have no basis in truth. I would like to believe that through continued dialogue, at all levels, the notion of a destructive and a moral conspiracy could be dispelled and values of compassion and inclusion will prevail.
Vanessa MacLean – I am opposed to SOGI 123 for many reasons that I will elaborate on. Firstly, however, I would like to clarify that it is of utmost importance to me to ensure that all students feel safe, secure, and happy in their public education experience. I am completely against bullying for any reason and understand the harm it causes children and their families. Therefore, I very much support anti-bullying programs as well as teaching children to respect and honour their peers and authority. The main concern I have with SOGI 123 resources is that they do not reflect the anti-bullying message they wish to exude. Our schools already have anti-bullying programs in place, including motivational speakers, special days like ‘pink shirt day,’ and other programs focused on eliminating bullying within the schools. What is needed in our schools is for the teachers, faculty and students to respect the diverse views of all children and family backgrounds. After researching extensively on SOGI 123 policies and teaching resources, it has become clear to myself and many parents, community members, and teachers, that SOGI 123 resources are primarily focused on promoting LGBTQ lifestyles and ideologies, not anti-bullying and inclusion. SOGI 123 has 14 transgender affirming books that they approve to read and teach children from kindergarten to Grade 12. SOGI 123 starts bringing in very confusing topics, such as ‘gender fluidity’ (https://www.cnn.com/2016/04/13/living/gender-fluid-feat/index.html), starting in elementary school and many of these concepts are not only confusing for students, but for parents and teachers alike. At the risk of losing their jobs and being labelled as “haters,” there is now a brave group of pediatricians and medical professionals who have stepped forward to address this harmful indoctrination. They are speaking up and warning schools and parents that these types of gender fluid ideologies promote widespread child abuse, as they hold no scientific truth and are leading children down destructive paths. There has been an unprecedented increase in adolescents undergoing treatments such as puberty blockers, cross sex hormones, and sex reassignment surgery that will leave children sterile and never able to bear children, among other side effects. It appears that SOGI 123 is largely deceptive and in essence actually promotes bullying in that it excludes the concerns and rights of parents who desire to teach sex education within their home and who don’t agree with its concepts. Furthermore, many students, teachers, parents and others who have raised their voices in concern over SOGI 123 policies and resources are being shut down and ostracized if they do not conform to its ideologies/beliefs. There have been recent reports of children who have come home crying after being forced to listen to videos of sexual and gender ideologies that they do not agree with and that confused them. SOGI 123 resources came in through the ‘back door,’ so to speak. There was no warning given to parents and no unanimous vote was cast in support of their use. Shouldn’t parents have the right to know what their children are being taught, especially when it pertains to issues of morality and sex? Policies need to be in place where all schools give advance notice to parents as to the content being taught to their children regarding sex education. Parents should also have the right to have their child sit out for certain lessons that do not line up with their beliefs. It is my hope that the school boards will see that SOGI 123 has done more to create division rather than bring inclusivity. We must take parental concerns seriously and see that what is actually needed is for all parents, faculty, and children to have their individual rights and beliefs respected, without fear that they will be called a hater, or bigot when they don’t agree. SOGI 123 attacks the traditional family of mother and father, as well as the gender roles of boys and girls. There are teaching lessons that tell the teacher not to use the words “boys” and “girls” or “mother” and “father” with the students, but to use more “gender neutral” language. Why tear down the traditional family and gender roles? Where is the inclusion in this? Anti-bullying programs should be generalized to all people groups including ethnicity, race, religion, sex, special needs, sexual orientation, etc. It should not focus on just one group and presume that sexual orientation and gender identity (a fairly new concept) should be protected above the other groups. The latest statistics in Stats Canada actually show that more hate crimes are directed towards ethnicity and religion rather than sexual orientation. Hate crimes directed towards sexual orientation have actually been decreasing in the past years, while hate crimes due to one’s ethnicity or religious background have been steadily increasing. Therefore, a focus on LGBT issues (which are a minority) would not reflect the Education Minister’s mandate of wanting to eliminate all forms of discrimination and harassment in society, when according to Canadian statistics, Race, Ethnicity, and Religion issues are of greater concern. This SOGI 123 program is biased towards one group, while excluding all of the rest, and this is not fair. Our children deserve better and SOGI 123 is not the answer.
John Kerr – I have made it clear on many occasions that I am strongly in favour of the use of SOGI materials in classrooms where the teacher determines that it is required and appropriate. By law, sexual orientation and gender identity must be addressed in district anti-bullying policy and facilities must include provision for the safety of all students, not just those who identify or manifest themselves as LGBTQ2S. The rights of parents and those of schools in the public education system are enshrined in the School Act and boards have no power to limit or expand those rights. Changes in those rights that are included in the School Act can only be addressed by changes in the legislation which can only be done at the provincial level.
Linda Jay – The Ministry of Education has provided resources for teachers to lead discussions about sexual orientation and gender identity. The purpose of SOGI is to help young people feel comfortable in being themselves and to support each other in being themselves. It is hopeful that informed, educated young people will cultivate a safe, inclusive space for all kids to grow and learn. To turn our backs on SOGI would mean to ignore the growing incidents of depression, mental illness and suicides that come about because children experience bullying and humiliation. No human being should suffer, least of all a youngster, because s/he feels isolated and alone in a mob of intolerance.
Parents need not feel threatened by the SOGI initiative as it is not intended to indoctrinate children. Rather, it liberates children to look inward and believe in themselves. As a trustee, I would hope to facilitate a better dialogue with parents who feel concerned over the SOGI initiative. I truly believe the bond between parents and children is sacred and that no external person or institution can interfere with a parent’s love. The point is that to promote acceptance of LGBTQ+ is a community effort to make our schools into healthier, safer places to learn and grow.
Daryl Hagen – When I was a youth growing up here in Campbell River if you were different you were bullied. It didn’t seem to matter what the difference was, you could be challenged mentally or physically, you could be a different colour, different race or have a different language/ culture. If your sexual orientation seemed to be different you were mocked and bullied. This was true but sad. You didn’t talk about someon who came from a divorced home and or had multiple fathers. For me people are just people. We can be different and still be accepted, we can go to school without fear of being bullied or harassed. It is not the district’s job to tell young people who they are going to be sexually, but it is our job to recognize the differences in our culture and that people are just people. It is the business of parents to raise their children. It is the business of the school district to protect students from bullying students. Recognition that there are differences does not mean that we’re teaching children to be different, but that it’s OK to be different and tolerant of others.
Richard Franklin – I support learning to treat each other with dignity and respect regardless of our differences. The Ministry, the school district and the British Columbia Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils have provided a wealth of information on line, in letters to parents, and with a full page of information in The Mirror. We also recommend that parents who have concerns talk directly to their child’s teacher and principal about what is happening in their child’s classroom. Parental rights are enshrined in provincial legislation; local school trustees do not have the authority to increase, or decrease, parental rights. BCCPAC has made Pro-D videos and learning modules available for parents. Parents can access these through their school’s parent advisory council.
Ted Foster – I am in favour of the SOGI 123 program, as was the entire outgoing Board of Education. I agree that parents have the prime responsibility for imparting family values, including religious and sexual beliefs to their children. Not all parents are prepared to address this need with the result that there may be naiveté, misinformation or, simply put, a failure to communicate. I think it is important that people be informed and make knowledge-based decisions. Preferably this would be done collaboratively between school and parents. The key is getting it done. Our business is educating; our product is teaching. It’s what the school district does!
To alleviate parent concerns is proving difficult in some circles. The background material has been distributed; our board went to a media publication offering full answers, opting out choices, inviting shared participation and full explanation of this provincially mandated program. There is a group of citizens running under an anti-SOGI banner contesting in this Trustee 2018 election. I like to stand for minority rights, but this is, in my opinion, a matter of common good.
Kat Eddy – I fully support the current board decision to support SOGI 123. This was a mandate passed down by the Ministry of Education in support of the Human Rights Code. Resources for parents and educators are appropriate and provide researched teaching and discussion points that allow all children to better understand gender differences and family structures. I do think that the Ministry could have done a better communication/education campaign for parents and side-stepped some of the controversy that has erupted in its wake. I feel as if a lot of parents are misinformed about the value and relevance of this resource.
Andrew Beaudin – I am apposed to SOGI 123 specifically, not an anti-bulling program; we definitely need to keep all kids safe from harm and there is absolutely a place for an anti-bulling program. I can only say that these students are and should be under the “Caring and Safe for All” banner like every other child. They should be treated with respect just like everyone else. They should have the same understanding, the same hope in themselves through family and the education offered to all. How can one fit in to an environment and be inclusive if they are being made to stick out? How can our schools be inclusive when the policies and resources are geared to a type of sexual lifestyle? SOGI123’s radical ideology does not belong in our schools. This teaching is up to the parent and those sexual issues that challenge a child should be within the loving environments of home and the people that love them the most. One of the most dangerous things about SOGI123 is that it undermines parental rights by encouraging and creating behaviours at school then keeping them “confidential” from the parent. This is against the school act, dangerous to the child, and harmful to their family unit. Go to WWW.CARINGANDSAFE.COM To understand more fully what SOGI 123 is and why I and others oppose it. Work with us to create a program that is truly inclusive for all.
Manfred Hack – I am against SOGI123. A stand against it is not a stand against LGBTQ students; it is a stand against the deeply flawed aspects of this program that has been rushed into every school in B.C. with little or no input from parents. Many trustees and even more parents believe aspects of this program will damage children. We believe that together parents, trustees, communities and students can develop a program that is truly anti-bullying and reaffirming for all. We too desire zero tolerance for bullies and we believe that can be done without bullying others into SOGI123. We have developed a website to help parents understand what SOGI 123 is (simply by linking to their resources), what we have heard from students, teachers and parents about this program (good and bad) and what we believe the concerns are. Please take a few minutes to visit www.caringandsafe.com and understand the reasons we are running against SOGI123 as we advocate for Caring and Safe Schools for all.
It is my opinion that the role of the educational system is to enable a child to discover their gift, and equip them to fulfill their dream. I don’t believe it is a place to impose ideology on them, especially so young. While this issue is complex and challenging, there are nine basic reasons for I am standing against SOGI 123:
- It creates division between parents and children (sets up confidentiality at school as they teach radical ideology then keep behaviours secret from parents)
- It teaches concepts far beyond a child’s need to know or understand (inducing youngsters to introduce themselves as “They”)
- It sexualizes children at a very young age
- It promotes gender fluidity (that you can be a boy, a girl, neither or both depending on how you “feel” that day), a concept that is unproven and unscientific, and many feel is deeply disturbing!
- It has been created by one minority and completely ignores all other bullying issues like special needs or aboriginal children; indeed children and parents who stand against it are now being bullied!
- It could create gender confusion in children as it encourages them to question their identity (this is a giant social experiment…we don’t actually know the outcomes yet!)
- It celebrates and promotes gender change with hormones that will render children sterile and surgery that will have them remove healthy body parts when if left to grow through puberty most children with gender dysphoria will grow out of it and become comfortable with their bodies
- It has been rushed through into schools without proper consultation with parents or thought to how this radical gender ideology will affect children
- We believe there is a better way to honour and uphold all children and together we will create it.
The Ministry of Education should have consulted parents and public in general before implementing the program.
“Inclusive” for LGBTQ+ students. If we are referring to social responsibility including many different types of people, who are treated fairly and equally:
I agree that we should treat people fairly, equally and respectfully at all times and that is a two-way street. This must be applied across the board were everyone is included, treated fairly and equally. One’s sexual preference should and must not have any influence on the educational system or the education a child receives and definitely should not be taught as part of the education a child receives. It is my opinion that it is not the place or purpose of the educational system to promote Gender Identity. Again, it is my opinion that the roll of the educational system is to enable a child to discovery their gift, and equip them to fulfill their dream.