Teachers’ union says SOGI 123 debate by Chilliwack trustee candidates is irrelevant

Teachers’ union says SOGI 123 debate by Chilliwack trustee candidates is irrelevant

‘School boards cannot prohibit or exclude resources. That is outside their power’: CTA, BCTF

The election campaign for the Chilliwack school board is getting ugly before it begins with several candidates galvanizing around what is – or at least should be, according to teachers – a non-issue.

Incumbent Barry Neufeld first made the Ministry of Education-approved anti-bullying teaching resource SOGI 123 (sexual orientation and gender identity) a controversy a year ago with a series of inflammatory Facebook posts that led to, among other reactions, his informal censure by the school board, repeated calls for his resignation, and the B.C. Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) filing a human rights complaint against him.

Among Neufeld’s inaccurate statements about what SOGI 123 is, he predicted that the government would soon start apprehending children to put in homes to explore homosexuality.

In recent weeks, a number of people with similar views have stepped up to say they will run for school board, some overtly pointing to SOGI 123 as an important issue.

That has led to some labelling the group “The Hate Slate” for running on, at least in part, anti-LGBT platforms. Incumbent Dan Coulter used the term “Hate Slate”, and candidate Willow Reichelt posted on her campaign Facebook page that “it is not acceptable for school trustee candidates to be homophobic and/or transphobic.”

Most recently, Darrell Furgason stepped forward with a press release to The Progress on Sept. 4 about his candidacy, something he posted a few days prior on a Facebook group he runs, Worldview Studies Center (sic).

It’s on that Facebook page where Furgason expresses links to websites with inflammatory content about “homosexualism” and “the push by the LGBTQ lobby and the public schools here in B.C. to indoctrinate our children via SOGI curriculum.”

(Furgason also argues that the world is 6,000 years old, that Adam and Eve were real people and their genetic line links to all humans.)

• READ MORE: Biblical creationist joins Chilliwack school board race

On Sept. 7, Furgason outlined the unofficial “slate” of candidates that those who are opposed to SOGI 123 should vote for. The list includes himself, Neufeld, Erma Vietorisz, Kaethe Jones and incumbent Heather Maahs.

Maahs has not yet formally announced she is running for re-election. As for Vietorisz and Jones, both have expressed opposition to SOGI 123.

• READ MORE: Anti-SOGI candidate to run for Chilliwack school board

• READ MORE: Retired teacher Erma Vietorisz once called gay-straight alliance clubs ‘social engineering’

The problem with all this rhetoric and polarization on the subject is that the school board has no authority to remove SOGI 123 from schools, according to the teachers’ union.

“School boards absolutely cannot reject, prohibit or ban provincially approved resources, curriculum or classes,” according to Chilliwack Teachers Association (CTA) president Ed Klettke.

“School boards cannot prohibit or exclude resources. That is outside their power, and this is illustrated by the Surrey book banning case.”

That refers to the 1997 case where three children’s books, Belinda’s Bouquet, Asha’s Mums, and One Dad, Two Dads, Brown Dads, Blue Dads, were banned by the Surrey School Board from elementary schools.

Twenty years ago parents complained that their religious beliefs were offended by the books, but a seven-to-two decision at the Supreme Court of Canada stated that the ban breached the School Act, which states public schools are to be run using “strictly secular” principles whereas the Surrey board’s decision was “significantly influenced by religious considerations.”

While the CTA president was adamant, according to his communication with the BCTF, that the school board has no authority to stop the use of provincial resources such as SOGI 123, the Ministry of Education doesn’t quite agree.

“While teachers have some autonomy when choosing resources to use in their classrooms, they do have to comply with the rules of their boards,” a ministry spokesperson said via email, adding that while the Ministry is a supportive partner of the SOGI 123 set of resources, it does not mandate use of any specific resources.

What school boards and independent schools in B.C. must have are codes of conduct and anti-bullying policies that are SOGI-inclusive.

“SOGI education and policies are well supported by teachers, superintendents, trustees and parent groups who want to see all forms of discrimination and bullying removed from the school system,” the spokesperson said. “SOGI-inclusive education can help us remove all forms of discrimination and bullying from B.C.’s school system.”

As for the outgoing trustees not seeking re-election, former board chair Paul McManus urged voters to not make SOGI or SOGI 123 a factor in how to cast a ballot.

“Believe me, if you talk to most teachers and administrators in our schools, you will discover that this ‘concern’ has been overblown by some members of the community,” he said in his statement issued about not seeking re-election. “Our school board should not be determined by a candidate’s stance on SOGI or SOGI 123.”

As board chair, McManus was the one who finally had to reign in Neufeld for his inflammatory social media posts.

“Through his extensive public statements on social media, including 18 Facebook posts so far this month that relate to the LGBTQ and transgender community, he has made it clear that having discussions with fellow trustees, in the appropriate setting, which the Board has planned for early in the new year, is not a priority and of no interest to him,” McManus said in a statement issued last December.

“By continuing to make his views known through social media, he is creating anxiety and concern amongst trustees, staff, parents and students.”

• READ MORE: Chilliwack school board chair blasts Neufeld over continued Facebook posts

Since that time and as a result of his online posts, even while sitting as a trustee and refusing to resign, Neufeld has had no contact with schools, staff or students.

Despite that, he did say back in November 2017 that he intends to run for re-election in the October 2018 vote.

• RELATED: OPINION: False equivalences in our public discourse

• RELATED: Murdered B.C. trans woman focus of new documentary


@PeeJayAitch
paul.henderson@theprogress.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Sam Darkoh in his music video ‘Ruby Fever’ which was shot in Yarrow. (Sterling Gold Production)
VIDEO: Yarrow, Chilliwack backdrop for professionally shot music video of Aldergrove rapper

Lots of hospitality, kind people while filming Ruby Fever, says hip-hop artist Sam Darkoh

Brian VanGarderen is one of four candidates running in the Chilliwack School Board byelection on Feb. 13, 2021. (Submitted photo)
VIDEO: Chilliwack byelection candidate would like to see district-wide connections

Brian Vangarderen hopes Chilliwack school board will focus on policy making and positive connections

Chilliwack is expected to be among the province’s hottest real estate markets in 2021. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick)
Chilliwack housing market projected to be among B.C.’s hottest in 2021

B.C. Real Estate Association projects Chilliwack and District to grow by 17.1 per cent

Chilliwack-Kent MLA Kelli Paddon. (Submitted)
Chilliwack-Kent MLA Kelli Paddon funding equity and social change scholarships

One of the scholarships is open to any graduating student in the Chilliwack-Kent electoral district

Eva Pucci Couture in this file shot from May 29, 2019, when she came to Chilliwack asking for the public’s help in locating her missing son, Kristofer Shawn Couture. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Missing man’s mom still hopeful, 2 years after his car was found abandoned at Chilliwack trail

‘I wish someone would come forward with insight into your whereabouts,’ pleads mom of missing man

Dr. Penny Ballem, a former deputy health minister, discusses her role in leading B.C.’s COVID-19 vaccination program, at the B.C. legislature, Jan. 22, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C. holds steady with 407 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday

14 deaths, no new outbreaks in the health care system

Jonathon Muzychka and Dean Reber are wanted on Canada-wide warrants. (Courtesy of Victoria Police Department)
Convicted killer, robber at large after failing to return to facility: Victoria police

Dean Reber, 60, and Jonathon Muzychka, 43, may be together

B.C. Premier John Horgan listens during a postelection news conference in Vancouver on Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
30% of B.C. recovery benefit applications held up in manual review

The province says 150 staff have been reassigned to help with manually reviewing applications

Adam Dergazarian, bottom center, pays his respect for Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, in front of a mural painted by artist Louie Sloe Palsino, Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Kobe Bryant’s presence remains strong a year after his death

Tuesday marks the grim anniversary of the crash that took their lives

Surrey RCMP are investigating after a pedestrian was struck and killed at 183 Street and Highway 10 Friday night. (File photo)
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

RCMP officers wearing face masks to curb the spread of COVID-19 stand by. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
RCMP appeal for witnesses after hit-and-run leaves girl, 17, in critical condition

The Metro Vancouver teenager was found unconscious and critically injured after being hit: police

The Brucejack mine is 65 km north of Stewart in northwestern B.C. (Pretivm Photo)
B.C. mine executives see bright gleam in post-COVID future

Low carbon drives demand for copper, steelmaking coal

In this Dec. 18, 2020 photo, pipes to be used for the Keystone XL pipeline are stored in a field near Dorchester, Neb.  THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Chris Machian /Omaha World-Herald via AP
Canadians divided over Keystone pipeline, despite U.S. president’s permit pullback

Two-thirds of Canadians think Biden’s decision was a “bad thing” for Alberta

Most Read