A seventh person has announced a bid for the Chilliwack school board in the election this fall.
Retired school teacher Kaethe Jones got to the heart of what some are making the district’s most controversial issue with the number one item on her platform.
“To protect our children from the dangerous influences of the SOGI 123 ideology,” she writes in a press release sent out Aug. 30.
SOGI 123 is a Ministry of Education resource designed to limit bullying of LGBT youth in schools, but a number of far right activists have been claiming for months that SOGI is indoctrinating children into homosexual practices.
The issue came to the forefront in Chilliwack last year when trustee Barry Neufeld argued that sexual orientation and gender identity discussions should not be included in the classroom. He went so far as to call those who support transgender and gay and lesbian children “cultural nihilists” and even child abusers.
Since then the issue has been a polarizing one rife with misinformation about what the program is actually about.
Critics of SOGI generally say that the topic of gender identity should not be discussed in schools and should be left to parents alone. Proponents of SOGI point to the high level of bullying of LGBT youth in schools, two thirds of whom say they feel unsafe.
In her press release announcing her bid for the board, Jones said SOGI 123 “creates confusion and anxiety in some children and possibly contributes to mental health issues later in life.”
She said “we need to remove SOGI 123 from the list of District 33 resources.”
The resource is, however, mandated by the provincial government so individual school districts have no authority to eliminate it.
Jones is not the only one to announce a bid for school board with an anti-SOGI platform. Neufeld said last fall he would run for re-election, and last week retired teacher Erma Vietorisz announced her candidacy, stating on her Facebook page that “we, in Canada, are loosing (sic) our freedom of speech to political correctness and bullying by people whose views we do no necessarily agree with,” and that “SOGI 123 has caused divisiveness in our community and the students are caught in the middle.”
Other candidates who have announced bids for school board, include incumbent Dan Coulter, Willow Reichelt, David Swankey, and Kelly Janveaux, the former three of whom have expressed strong support for SOGI.
Incumbents Paul McManus, Walt Krahn, Silvia Dyck, Heather Maahs and Bob Patterson all have not yet announced if they will stand for re-election.
Other items on Jones’ platform include: promoting the recommendations of Dr. Dave Carter’s February 2013 Special Education Review Report; and making sure the school board makes fiscally responsible decisions to improve learning outcomes for all students.
“Teacher resources should include an eclectic toolkit of teaching strategies to meet the diverse learning needs of students.”
Jones says she has 24 years teaching Kindergarten to Grade 3 in public schools, teaching Kindergarten in private school, and teaching in two First Nations settlements in Northwest Territories and in northeast B.C.
She was born in Paraguay and raised in Vancouver.