The Chilliwack school district will not send its learning resources policy for a legal opinion on liability despite a move by Trustee Heather Maahs to do just that at Tuesday’s board meeting.
Maahs first tabled a motion at the Sept. 18 school board meeting to send the policy for a legal opinion in response to a lawyer’s letter sent to the Richmond school board in the spring about the SOGI 123 teaching resource, which relates to sexual orientation and gender identity.
Maahs’ argument was that if some parents came after the schools for something about SOGI 123 that they don’t like, those teachers might be left holding the bag.
“We are actually abdicating our responsibility and we are pushing it all onto individual teachers,” Maahs said.
It was never explained what legal basis anyone might have to sue a teacher over SOGI 123, but Maahs insisted a legal opinion was warranted since parents were not involved in the creation of the resource.
“According to the mandate for public education, if you had a problem, parents are to be involved in the decision- making,” she said. “We’ve had no consultation with any parent groups about the writing of this resource.”
SOGI 123 is not a local resource, it is used provincewide and is approved by the Ministry of Education.
When the matter first came up on Sept. 18, trustees didn’t know what legal letter Maahs was talking about. The motion was tabled until the Oct 2 meeting, in which was included the 11-page letter from Abbotsford lawyer Herb Dunton on behalf of unnamed clients in which he is highly critical of SOGI 123.
“The SOGI Policy will certainly attract liability to members of the Richmond School District community, including Trustees, and anyone else who participates in its implementation,” Dunton writes in his June 25 letter.
Dunton concludes a long analysis of the SOGI policy by saying that democracy and tolerance are lost when the state is supreme and questions can’t be asked.
“The SOGI program you are considering is not about protecting children with gender dysphoria, or about anti-bullying and inclusivity. It is about leading children to reject heterosexuality, and to join the community of those who embrace sexuality fluidity, and non-binary sexual orientation and sexual amorality as the norm.”
In the case of Richmond, the school board received the letter and then voted 6-to-1 in favour of adopting SOGI 123.
At the Oct. 2 Chilliwack board meeting, all trustees except Barry Neufeld and Maahs voted against sending the policy to a lawyer.
“I do not want to get into a situation in this school district where trustees around this table are having political fights over phrases in books,” Trustee Dan Coulter said. “Do we want to be like Alabama or some place like that? I think not.”
Trustee Walt Krahn said there was no new information in what Maahs provided, the board is following Ministry of Education policy, and the School Act supersedes all other orders.
Trustee Silvia Dyck similarly rejected the need for a legal opinion for a policy approved by the Ministry.
“I still see no reason to get a legal opinion on our policy, that being the motion on the table,” she said. “It makes no sense to me.”