Claims that more than 100 students walked out of a school presentation about sexuality and gender are “completely erroneous,” according to the Abbotsford School District’s spokesperson.
Kayla Stuckart was responding to claims made online by a Christian TV host and an advocacy group that has spent months campaigning against sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) education in B.C. schools.
In a Facebook Live video broadcast around 1 p.m. Thursday, 700 Club Canada host Laura-Lynn Tyler Thompson spoke to two Robert Bateman Secondary students, Ethan and Josh.
The two boys say they refused to attend a presentation at the school from Out in Schools, an educational program that uses films to teach school kids about homophobia, transphobia and bullying.
“We already know about it. We have access to the internet. They just keep forcing stuff on this that we don’t need to learn,” Ethan tells Thompson. He goes on to suggest that education about LGBT identities and issues should be confined to a separate and optional class.
Josh says he also felt the presentation was unnecessary: “They put everybody in a giant room and start talking about how they want respect and stuff we know [about] giving respect.”
Thompson, whose daily program airs in Joy TV, praised the boys in a subsequent Facebook post.
“We are in a war and I am so incredibly proud of these kids who are showing us how it’s done!” she wrote.
In response to an email from The News, Thompson said she had no part in organizing the “walk out.”
“This is only the beginning,” she wrote. “Kids, parents, teachers and school trustees are starting to be fed up with being bullied into the constant LGBTQ indoctrination.” She called supporting transgender students in transition “child abuse.”
Stuckart said the assembly was not optional because it is part of the B.C. curriculum.
She said the presentation “was well received by students and staff – and even a few parents who requested to attend.”
One of the Out in Schools presenters, Gavin Somers, told The News the two presentations they gave at Bateman “went really, really well.” (Somers identifies as gender non-binary and uses they/them pronouns.)
“After the first presentation, we had about a dozen students come up to us and just give us a lot of really great positive feedback and gratitude for us being there,” they said. “We had some really great and thoughtful questions throughout both presentations and there were no kerfuffles or no one walked out.”
Somers said the film screenings share “stories that allow folks to see experiences that might be different than their own.”
“It’s really an inviting space to allow folks to ask questions to explore maybe their own relationship to identity and … we share our own experiences,” they said.
“So we recognize that with homophobia and transphobia, a lot of what happens is the fear of not knowing and so when we’re able to personalize these experiences, we find that we’re able to help shift school culture into becoming more inclusive and supportive for all students.”
Somers said studies show more inclusive and supportive school environments for LGBT students benefit all students and reduce levels of mental illness, bullying and violence.