The Chilliwack School Board has officially asked their fellow trustee, Barry Neufeld, to step down.
The board released the statement on Friday morning, following another heated week of discussions surrounding Neufeld’s statements about sexual orientation and gender identity policies in schools.
They passed a motion in an in-camera meeting on Jan. 18, “because of a loss in confidence… in Trustee Neufeld’s ability to effectively perform the duties of a Trustee.”
Neufeld recently stepped down from his role as liaison in schools and on the committees he sat on, after causing controversy by posting what many called hurtful comments about the transgender community. He continues to receives his remuneration, which is just over $18,000 a year for a trustee in Chilliwack. He posted several times on Facebook about his deep held feelings against a teacher resource called SOGI 123 that has been approved by the Ministry of Education.
His words have caused both supporters and protesters to rally in Chilliwack in past months. A group called Culture Guard came out to support him, and two rallies for inclusion have been held in conjunction with school board meetings. The most recent was held on Tuesday night.
The board’s letter outlines how Neufeld’s actions and words have demonstrated “intolerance” and are “contrary to the BC Human Rights Code and contrary to the views of the Board of Education.”
They have been inundated with requests from partners in education, including the Chilliwack Parent Advisory Council, the Chilliwack Teachers’ Association, CUPE, BCGEU, the BC Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils, and the Fraser Valley Labour Council.
All have expressed loss in confidence in Neufeld.
Neufeld states that he intends to continue his tenure as trustee, according to the statement from the board. On Tuesday night, the school board read a statement of support for SOGI 123, and its commitment to all students.
Rob Fleming, minister of education, said he supports the board’s decision, calling Neufeld’s words “hurtful and offensive.”
“Last night, the Chilliwack School District board called upon Mr. Neufeld to resign his position as a school trustee, he said in a statement on Friday morning. “All students deserve to be welcomed, included and respected in a safe learning environment no matter their sexual orientation or gender identity.
“That’s what SOGI 1-2-3 is all about—ensuring that students are able to be fully and completely themselves without being excluded or bullied. The hurtful and offensive words and actions of Chilliwack School Trustee Barry Neufeld continue to undermine this District and Ministry goal.”
He addressed the issue of trustees expressing their personal opinions, something many of Neufeld’s supporters say he’s in turn been bullied for.
“While individuals are entitled to their opinions, Mr. Neufeld has jeopardized student safety, divided his school community, and acted against board and ministry policies,” Fleming said.
“In addition to Mr. Neufeld’s continued and escalating disregard for Chilliwack students, he has also undermined the school district’s ability to focus on other goals for student success, including improving student achievement, creating welcoming and inclusive environments in our schools, and continuing to implement our new curriculum.”
He also underlined his own loss of confidence in Neufeld as a trustee.
“While the School Act doesn’t give an Education Minister the authority to dismiss an individual trustee, for the reasons outlined above, I do not believe that Mr. Neufeld should continue as a trustee. That is why I am joining parents, teachers, support staff and his fellow trustees who have lost confidence in Mr. Neufeld due to his negative and destructive words and actions. It’s time for him to now do the right thing for the Chilliwack school community and step down.”