The Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows school board has declined to host a meeting of the Fraser Valley branch of the B.C. School Trustee Association because Chilliwack trustee Barry Neufeld intended to attend.
Neufeld has been asked to resign by the Chilliwack school board over his comments opposing the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) curriculum in the province.
He said at a board meeting Tuesday in Chilliwack that he had been looking forward to attending the Fraser Valley branch meeting, which was to be held Feb. 5 at Maple Ridge secondary.
But in a letter from School District No. 42 board chair Mike Murray, the board declined to host the meeting.
“Our decision on this is guided by Policy 9410: Safe, Caring and Healthy Schools, which outlines the Board’s commitment to providing safe, caring and socially responsible school environments, as well as educational opportunities such as SOGI,” Murray said in the letter to Shelley Carter, president of the Fraser Valley branch.
“This same policy also captures the expectation we outline for our school codes of conduct, which is that: ‘Any language (oral or written) or behavior that deliberately degrades, denigrates, labels, stereotypes or incites hatred, prejudice, discrimination or harassment towards students or employees on the basis of their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity will not be tolerated.’
“Given that Trustee Barry Neufeld, who has indicated his intent to attend this meeting, has publicly expressed views that contravene our longstanding policy and stated values, we must unfortunately decline to host this event at one of our schools.
“While we regret putting the branch in the very awkward position of having to consider postponing its meeting, we do feel the need to stand strongly by our stated values. Otherwise, they have no meaning.”
The meeting has been rescheduled and will now be held in Abbotsford.
“I’m disappointed that I have such a negative reputation that even other school boards are scared of me, but I intend to press on, for the sake of students and for the safety of children,” Neufeld said at the Chilliwack board meeting.
Neufeld later said in a phone interview that his board pays $60,000 to be a member of the BCSTA, and he has a right to attend its meetings, and board trustees and administrators were generally planning to attend the event in Maple Ridge.
Neufeld said opposing the SOGI curriculum is about freedom of speech, and a parent’s right to contest materials being brought into the classroom.
The B.C. School Trustees Association issued a statement on Jan. 19 supporting the Chilliwack school board calling for the resignation of Neufeld.
“As trustees, we take an oath [to] ‘not allow any private interest to influence my conduct in public matters’ and it is imperative that a public school trustee represent and protect the safety of all students,” said the BCSTA statement.
“When one allows personal beliefs to infringe on their ability to do so, and when those beliefs conflict with the policies of the board that they represent along with the laws that govern the province, there are consequences. In this case, it has resulted in a loss of confidence from the Chilliwack Board of Education and the Minister of Education in the trustee’s ability to adequately fulfill the duties of office that he was elected to perform.”
Neufeld said he is not sure whether he will attend the meeting in Abbotsford.
“I don’t want to rock the boat any more than it’s already rocking.”