SOGI rally disrupts school board meeting

SOGI rally disrupts school board meeting

School board makes statement in support of B.C.-wide gender identity teaching resource

Jessica Peters

The Progress

Chilliwack’s school board has now firmly stated its support for SOGI 123 teaching materials, following months of controversy started by one of its trustees.

Board chair Paul McManus read the full statement at the outset of the public meeting on Tuesday night(find this story online for the full text). That meeting was disrupted at least twice, once by a pro-SOGI rally that moved into the board office lobby, and once by a Christian television evangelist who spoke out of order during a question period.

In part, the board’s statement says it acknowledges “that when learning resources, such as SOGI 123, are used, utmost professional judgment will be exercised in assessing how learning resources are utilized. The Chilliwack School District is one of 51 out of 60 school districts in the province that are in the provincial SOGI network.”

The statement said the board has “always supported all students regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, race, religion or background.”

But that support has been doubted over the past several months, since Trustee Barry Neufeld came out against SOGI 123, a Ministry of Education approved teaching resource that addresses sexual orientation and gender identity in the classrooms. The resources aim to lead discussions about traditional gender roles and myth busting, in age-appropriate ways, as well as dealing with pronouns in situations where it’s called for.

Neufeld has written several times online about his stance against SOGI 123, and has even stated in a public meeting he is working on an “alternate inclusion program.”

He spoke publicly at a rally for a group that actively works to stop SOGI 123 and believes transgender children will “grow out of it” and are in danger from adults and “social engineering.”

Up until Tuesday night, the board had not collectively spoken in support of SOGI 123. They attended a private SOGI 123 information session the day before, lead by the district’s assistant superintendent Rohan Arul-Pragasam, where they drafted the statement.

All of this led up to Tuesday night’s rally, where about 150 people gathered outside the Chilliwack school district office an hour before the public meeting. They wore neon lights, held signs, drummed, played guitar, chanted, and sang songs.

People came from all over the Fraser Valley and Lower Mainland to join the rally in support of LGBTQ children and teens. Among the supporters was also Anglican priest John Sovereign.

“I’m totally in support of SOGI,” he said. “It’s a move in the right direction. I’m so glad kids growing up won’t have to hide in plain sight anymore. And there is nothing more gospel than that.”

As a First Nation drummer played nearby, he added: “This is where Jesus would be.”

But the more common refrain of the night was “Hey hey, ho ho, Barry Neufeld’s got to go,” as rally participants marched up and down the streets around the district building, through the parking lot and even into the building.

A sizable group moved into the lobby about halfway through the meeting, while the board was attempting to listen to Superintendent Evelyn Novak present the upcoming school calendar, which is being changed to a one-week spring break model. The reasoning for the change was hard to hear, due to the chanting, and was arguably the most contentious item on the agenda for many families and staff that evening.

As the voices got louder, Trustee Heather Maahs interrupted Novak and made a motion to suspend the meeting, in order to clear the building of the protesters. Neufeld seconded the motion, but the rest of the board voted against Maahs’ motion and it failed. (Trustee Silvia Dyck is away on an extended medical leave.)

Chair McManus said he would rather let them continue to protest and that they had all the information in front of them that they needed to make their decision, and the meeting carried on. Earlier in the evening, a woman holding a sign that read “Grannies for SOGI” quietly walked the perimeter of the room. She was ushered out of the room and back to the rally.

The security on site also reportedly called in the RCMP to help with the crowd and attempted to get them to leave the area. However, upon arrival they found nothing wrong and left without incident. The school board office is almost directly across the street from an RCMP detachment.

At the end of the meeting, in the second question-and-answer period, one of Neufeld’s most vocal supporters attempted to make a speech. However, the question period at the end of the meeting is set aside only for items that were discussed on that evening’s agenda, and Neufeld and SOGI 123 were not on the agenda. The woman, Christian television personality and Culture Guard member Laura-Lynn Tyler Thompson, was quickly called on a point of order by Trustee Dan Coulter. She kept talking, however, questioning what “point of order” meant. She pulled up two teenagers she said she met at the rally to try to continue speaking in defence of Neufeld.

McManus turned off the microphone to the podium, as people in the audience began shouting that she needed to be shut down, since nobody else would be allowed to speak to the SOGI issue. Many people left the boardroom in defiance and the meeting was quickly adjourned.

During the first question and answer period, which is not limited to agenda items, several people brought up questions about Neufeld and his recent behaviour. Parent and long-time PAC volunteer Clara Hooper asked about Neufeld’s remuneration, since he is no longer acting as a liaison in his role as trustee. Neufeld didn’t attempt to respond to the question.

A parent who didn’t identify herself for fear of reprisal, presumably from Neufeld supporters, pressed McManus and others to state whether they had reached out to Justine Hodge, Chilliwack District Parent Advisory Council chair, after Neufeld launched a letter-writing campaign against her among his political supporters. Trustee Coulter raised his hand to say he had done so. McManus and Novak have also reached out to Hodge. Hodge has previously stated she felt so under attack by the content of the letters, she contacted the RCMP.

Morgane Oger, a trans advocate from Vancouver, asked if the board has or will be censuring Neufeld for his actions, to show future trustees that such actions will not be tolerated.

McManus responded that they are in the middle of legal advice on the matter and could not comment.

Board of Education SOGI Statement by Jess Peters on Scribd

 

SOGI rally disrupts school board meeting

SOGI rally disrupts school board meeting

SOGI rally disrupts school board meeting

SOGI rally disrupts school board meeting

SOGI rally disrupts school board meeting

SOGI rally disrupts school board meeting

SOGI rally disrupts school board meeting

SOGI rally disrupts school board meeting

SOGI rally disrupts school board meeting

Just Posted

Bradley Priestap in an undated photo provided to the media some time in 2012 by the London Police Service.
Serial prowler acquitted of duct tape possession in Chilliwack provincial court

Ontario sex offender on long-term supervision order was found with one of many ‘rape kit’ items

Mandarin Garden in Abbotsford had two event tents set up for outdoor dining. One of the tents, valued at more than $5,000, was stolen early Friday morning (May 14). (Submitted photo)
UPDATE: Dining tent stolen from Abbotsford restaurant is located

Owner says it would have cost more than $5,000 to replace the rented event tent

RCMP and search and rescue teams experienced a record-setting number of calls last summer and hope people will be better prepared heading outdoors in 2021. (RCMP photo)
RCMP and search and rescue teams ask public to plan ahead before an outdoor adventure

A lack of planning can get a person stuck in a dicey situation in the back-country

Chilliwack prolific offender Brian Stephan was wanted in late April 2021, but was arrested and charged after allegedly stealing a vehicle in Mission on May 5 and resisting arrest in Chilliwack. (RCMP file)
Wanted Chilliwack prolific offender arrested yet again

Brian Stephan allegedly stole a vehicle in Mission, committed a B&E, resisted arrest in Chilliwack on May 5

Trina Hunt's remains were found in the Hope area on March 29. Her family is asking the public to think back to the weekend prior to when she went missing. (Photo courtesy of IHIT.)
Cousin of missing woman found in Hope says she won’t have closure until death is solved

Trina Hunt’s family urges Hope residents to check dashcam, photos to help find her killer

Daily confirmed COVID-19 cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day rolling average in white, to May 12, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. preparing ‘Restart 2.0’ from COVID-19 as June approaches

Daily infections fall below 500 Friday, down to 387 in hospital

Rich Coleman, who was responsible for the gaming file off and on from 2001 to 2013, was recalled after his initial testimony to the Cullen Commission last month. (Screenshot)
Coleman questioned over $460K transaction at River Rock during B.C. casinos inquiry

The longtime former Langley MLA was asked about 2011 interview on BC Almanac program

Steven Shearer, <em>Untitled. </em>(Dennis Ha/Courtesy of Steven Shearer)
Vancouver photographer’s billboards taken down after complaints about being ‘disturbing’

‘Context is everything’ when it comes to understanding these images, says visual art professor Catherine Heard

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam listens to a question during a news conference, in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Restrictions will lift once 75% of Canadians get 1 shot and 20% are fully immunized, feds say

Federal health officials are laying out their vision of what life could look like after most Canadians are vaccinated against COVID-19

Mike Farnworth, pre-pandemic. (File photo)
Surrey Police recruitment not distracting cops from shootings, Farnworth says

‘That’s simply not the case,’ Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth told the Now-Leader on Friday

Police are at Ecole Mount Prevost Elementary but the students have been evacuated. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Gardener finds buried explosives, sparking evacuation of Cowichan school

Students removed from school in an ‘abundance of caution’

RCMP officers stand near a body covered with a tarp in the parking lot of a shopping complex after one person was killed and two others were injured during a shooting in Burnaby, B.C., on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Man, 23, killed in latest Lower Mainland shooting had gang ties: IHIT

Jaskeert Kalkat was one of the three people hit by gunfire at Market Crossing mall at around 8:30 p.m.

Most Read