School District No. 72 trustees are putting their full support behind the province’s SOGI 123 initiatives.
With a packed house inside the board office Tuesday night, the board unanimously supported a motion put forward by trustee Richard Franklin to direct the superintendent to “proceed thoughtfully with implementation” of SOGI. The item came up around an agenda item for board policy concerning diversity, equality and equity.
Board members spoke at length about their reasons for supporting the measures aimed at making school environments safe and welcoming environments, particularly for LGBTQ+ people. Opponents have responded that the measures are not about anti-bullying but rather veer into matters about sexuality that should be best left to families.
Franklin opened his remarks by thanking everyone on all sides for their input to the district in recent months, saying it pushed the board to research questions around SOGI.
“I believe everyone who has been speaking has come here with good intentions,” he said.
Franklin expressed concern about some of the organizations at the forefront of SOGI opposition, suggesting they did not represent the views of all Christians, or that organizations such as the American College of American Pediatricians, might be mistaken as a governing body rather than an advocacy group.
He added he would not be moved even by threats from some stating they would not vote for any trustee that supports SOGI.
“I will not make decisions that I feel are contrary to the governance model of this school district and the laws of British Columbia,” he said.
He also said he expects some parents will continue to use the provincial alternative delivery policy to exclude their children from lessons regarding human sexuality.
Other members of the board expanded on their support for the motion. Trustee Daryl Hagen said he did believe that sexual orientation values should start with families.
“I believe in families. I believe it’s the diversity of all the families that we have in Canada that makes us great,” he said.
Hagen said he had seen enough fear and hate from his work experience though, and that he felt the district needs to create a culture that is welcoming to people.
“I ran a jail for 28 years, I’ve seen all kinds of hatred,” he said. “I’ve looked evil in the eye. What we need is acceptance from people.”
A few members of the public gave presentations about why they favour or oppose SOGI. Parent Mary Malinski talked about her own children’s struggles with bullying and said she supported SOGI as a way to prevent this.
“No child ought to be mistreated because they don’t fit perfectly into a pink or blue box,” she said.
On the other side, Vanessa MacLean-Webber cited statistics about health and other related problems associated with LGBTQ+ people. She also asked if she could read from scripture to explain her feelings about SOGI and her wish for freedom of expression for religious beliefs.
“Every child comes from a father and a mother, and that’s biology,” she said.
A question period at the end turned a little testier, with some opponents continuing to express opposition to the board’s support for SOGI. One woman asked to distribute Gideons Bibles in schools but was informed this was not permitted by the School Act. At one point following the trustees’ decision, one woman shouted on her way out the door, “I’m a parent, and you guys are not listening to parents.”