CAMPBELL RIVER, B.C. – The MyCampbellRiverNow.com newsroom reached out to the school trustee candidates for School District 72 and asked them about the SOGI 123 curriculum.

The curriculum has some of the candidates and residents divided. Some say they feel sexual orientation and gender identity shouldn’t be taught until later, when students are older, while others say SOGI 123 is an important resource for teachers to be able to answer students’ questions.

The questions we asked were “What is your stance on the SOGI 123 curriculum, and why?”

Their responses are included in full. Some candidates were not able to get back to us in time before we published this story, but their responses will be added as they become available.

Manfred Hack, Vanessa MacLean, Andrew Beaudin, and Peter Sutherland are against the SOGI 123 resource, as listed on bcsogi.ca.

 

Richard Franklin

I spent a lot of time researching the issue and carefully considering the literature both for and against SOGI 123. There’s a lot of misunderstandings about SOGI 123. SOGI 1 stands for the policies that the district MUST enact to protect the rights, as per the 2016 amendment to the Human Rights Code. SOGI 2 is moving towards facilities that make it safe and comfortable for anyone to be at school, so these would include bathrooms and changeroom facilities. And SOGI 3, those are the lesson plans and resources that are being made available to teachers and they’re resources that the BC Ministry of Education and the Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils have reviewed and approved and they may be used by a teacher if a situation arises where a student may need help understanding, for example, that families come in all sorts of shapes and sizes and configurations.

I am aware of anti-SOGI candidates, and they appear to be organized by the Canadian Christian Lobby, and this organization has stated in writing that homosexuality is not in balance with God’s holy order. So this group, if it was elected, indicated it would pass a motion preventing teachers from accessing these resources. I’ve seen their motion online, and it actually talks about eliminating 1 and 2, as well as 3, trying to remove it from board policy. Now, that would be illegal, of course.

The Human Rights Code is very clear on that all students and teachers, no matter their sexual orientation or gender identity are not to be discriminated against. And two, if the move towards making sure that we’ve got the right bathroom and change room facilities, that makes it safe for all students. I think what they’re really getting at is the resources that they would like to prevent teachers from using.

No one knows what would happen at that point, but my guess is that a very expensive legal battle would begin, or the Minister would fire the Campbell River Board of Education and appoint a public trustee.

The well-being of students is always foremost in the practice of educators. I was a teacher and principal for 35 years and in my entire career, I don’t recall the banning of books or the prohibition of a small collection of lesson plans stopping teachers from helping students understand the diverse nature of the human family. 

 

Kat Eddy

I do fully support SOGI, both in my bid as a school trustee as well as personally. I deeply believe that people are people; it does not matter what your sexual orientation is, what religion you choose to believe in, where your country of origin is, or what colour your skin is.

We’re all just people, people who want to love and be loved, who accept and want to be accepted and who do their best to be happy. For the most part, we’re also people who are kind to those around them. I know that a lot of people face racism and discrimination on a daily basis. Just imagine what this does to your self-esteem and feelings of self-worth. We as a public education system must do our best to protect all our children. To provide safe, inclusive places where they can grow, learn, and blossom into the people they’re meant to be. That’s why I support SOGI.

There’s a lot of misinformation flying around what it (SOGI) means. SOGI is a human rights mandate that requires all organizations that provide government-funded services to adjust the language in their governance documents and policy to reflect those with gender differences. The second part of SOGI is a facility scan to ensure that folks with gender differences have a safe, inclusive space in which to do things like use the washroom or changeroom. Both of these things are human rights, and I don’t see them as an issue. The third part of SOGI is a resource developed for educators and parents with inclusive topics related to gender issues that is NOT a curriculum, and that is NOT required teaching. If parents want to better understand topics related to sexual orientation and gender identity, I encourage them to visit the bcsogieducation.org website. This is an easily engaged site with answers to all questions, as well as a breakdown of resources available both to educators and parents

You asked me what I would do if the SOGI decision was repealed. First, no one trustee works in isolation. We’re a corporate governance board, which means if a motion is passed by the majority, all board members must stand behind that decision. There’s no room for wildcards. You’re entitled to present your argument for or against the motion, but if the majority votes to adopt it, you must support the decision of the whole. If at some point the majority votes to repeal SOGI, I will continue to fight for inclusive safe spaces for all our children and refer families and children to our very inclusive community organizations and agencies if necessary.

In summary, that’s where I stand on SOGI. And I’m asking the public please, can we have public discussions about other issues that affect the next four years in school district 72? How about we talk about how we’re going to support our kids with exceptional developmental or physical needs? How about we talk about how we can hire more professionals in areas like speech development? How can we work to connect all parents to their schools in support of their kids’ education? How can we continue to embed Indigenous language and culture into our curriculum? And finally, how can we address at least one of our educational facilities that desperately needs to be renovated or rebuilt?

These are all things that are at least as important as SOGI.

 

Ted Foster

SOGI 123 is a process to build a more inclusive, personalized environment, one that values diversity and respects differences. SOGI 123 brings  the B.C. Human Rights Code to bear; addresses the  bullying practices towards these groups that is commonly interpreted as discrimination; they seek a inclusive, accepting empathic environment for all students, period.

I am aware of the concerns that this is a camouflaged sex activation program, a movement to undermine parents’ relationships with children, societal values and to sexualize children. In short, a political and sexual corruption conspiracy.

The outgoing Board of Education, in which I had the privilege to serve as Vice Chair, voted unanimously in an open public meeting to support the SOGI initiative. The Board cited the Ministry of Education directives, the academic and public inputs {including parent groups, educators and professionals}. The Board acknowledged the rights of parents to protest and to exercise free speech. The protest group is represented by several candidates in the upcoming Trustee election. The issue has attracted significant publicity locally, Provincially and beyond Canada’s borders. I must say that I have not been approached, beyond by the activists at Board meetings, to support the anti SOGI initiative.

My view has not changed. I support SOGI and minority rights. The School District is in the business of public education for all. I fully agree that it is one of the parents’ responsibility to address / educate their children on SOGI matters. Many parents are absent, too busy, ill equipped or perhaps feel that the best SOGI education source for their child is the class room teacher. Today, public schools are involved in far more that the basic reading, writing and arithmetic. SOGI, like inclusion for challenged students, is a core value. We should all be lifelong learners. Inclusiveness, diversity and respect for others should lead us to a better world.

Should the Ministry change direction / curriculum I would expect the Board to comply. The question concerning negative impact on students is difficult. Specifics would help. Our Board is a Governance Board which implies that the operations component is managed by staff from senior management to teaching staff and others.  We have counselors and other professionals organized into Critical Incident Teams that often respond to traumatic situations that directly or indirectly involve students / families. Personally, I am not qualified to take any direct action in the event of a “negative impact”. I am here to support parents in achieving the best educational and personal outcomes for our youth. That is basically why we offer to serve as School Trustees.

 

Linda Jay 

The purpose of the curriculum, I think is right minded, and I am in favour of anything that is right minded as far as keeping students safe, a feeling that they’re accepted and included in the school.

I think it’s an interesting question to propose (if SOGI 123 gets repealed and students are negatively impacted, what will you do for those students?); first of all, you’ve had to establish students would be negatively impacted by the repeal of such a curriculum. I work as an educator myself and I know there are often occasions where curricula are put forward and it’s intended for a purpose that’s sound and thoughtful, but sometimes it doesn’t implement out correctly and sometimes there are glitches that haven’t been foreseen. So those kinds of curricula, they’re rolled back and they’re redone and they’re re-engineered, and they’re put forward again.

And so if there’s a case where this particular curriculum has to be redone, that would probably would be the next step for the people who proposed it. As far as the young people who may be affected by it, we really have an obligation as educators to create an inclusive environment. It starts with our schools and extends out to our communities and out to society in general. And there needs to be an acceptance so we don’t look at another human being and think that human being has characteristics that are fearful or strange or could be threatening to us.

Those are the things that I think are at the goal – that’s the end game of why such a curriculum is put forward.

 

Manfred Hack 

I believe that before puberty, I don’t believe that the school system should be teaching sexuality because there’s chemicals that children are missing and they’re not able to make decisions. And going by feelings – I’ve gone by feelings, and it wasn’t good. I always have to have something to substantiate, proof, some good research and stuff like that.

I’m using that against anything; but what I’m for is that the parents have a say. My main issue is that the parents have been sidelined. Parents have not been consulted on anything. They’ve just been told, “this is what’s going to happen.” And some of the parents don’t even know, and they really don’t know what it’s all about. So, my biggest concern is that parents have not been consulted. I believe that at all times, if you don’t tell the parents this is what we’re going to do, so sign the form – no. We ask. We have the technology now to put out there, through Facebook and other means, to get people to respond to a questionnaire. Allow them, and not after the fact, but say, this is what we’re considering. What is your input on this? Do you know anything about it? What would you have us look at? I believe that’s been circumvented. And so then, when things are put together, you allow the parents again to say “ok, this is what we’re proposing,” “this is what we approve of.”

That’s the main crux of the matter for me. As far as scientific research and things I’ve been reading and studying, it’s not a good thing. I believe that people, when they’re of age of accountability – usually the teenage years and above – they can make decisions. And if people choose, that’s fine, that’s their choice. But when children are under the age of puberty, no. I’m sorry, I can’t go with that.

 

Shannon Briggs

I do not support the ‘golden rule’ of treat others how you want to be treated. I support the ‘platinum rule’ which is to treat others how they want to be treated. This was taught to me in 2010 by a group of outspoken youth I worked with  called Youth 4 Diversity (Y4D) in Campbell River. They made it clear that LGBTQ education and awareness was sorely needed in schools, but wasn’t being offered. I’m grateful to be joining the board at a time when this issue is being hugely supported, not only by students, but by Government and the general public as well. Before SOGI was implemented there have been champions in the schools leading the way with little support or guidance but now the onus of educating students is top down rather than bottom up. This is taking the pressure off of students to educate their peers about differing lifestyles or teachers trying to address it with no provincial curriculum to back them. I support diversity education and awareness, therefore I fully support SOGI.

I do not believe that SOGI is currently at risk of being repealed in BC as it appears to have much more support than it does opposition. That said, this does not mean we should stop advocating for SOGI or we could end up with an outdated 1998 curriculum like Ontario. I will continue to be an outspoken ally and do everything in my power to increase awareness of the beneficial impacts of fostering inclusivity and encouraging an informed learning environment. The most impactful thing I can do is encourage you to vote on October 20 for the candidates who support SOGI. As for me, I ran unopposed in Sayward and my seat is secure.

 

John Kerr

The SOGI materials are provincially approved materials. Boards cannot forbid the use of provincially approved materials. You’d run into – I can think of two accounts where you’d run into lawsuits. You’d run into legal trouble; one would probably be the BCTF would protest the restriction of the materials because of teacher autonomy. But the other one is that the Minister of Education could very well either take the board to court or could dismiss the board.

SOGI materials can’t be repealed. The Ministry of Education consulted widely before recommending and approving these resources. They met with the BCTF and the BCCPAC and boards can’t repeal provincial mandates and they don’t have the power to overrule or forbid the use of provincially-approved teaching and learning materials. Any board that did that, my suspicion is, there’d either be immediate court action and the board could possibly be dismissed. The provincial – the previous provincial government – dismissed two boards who operated outside the mandate of the Ministry of Education. If that was the case, then fighting a court case on that issue would almost certainly cost the district tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars with the end result that the minister could order the board to rescind any motion or just dismiss them.

I think that that would be a bad path to go down.

If I was a member of a board that attempted to follow this course of action, I would do everything I could to convince those trustees who are advocating that course to seriously reconsider their actions. If the board chose to go against my position, I would not be able to do anything further to help our students because the board is a corporate board and the majority rules the day. You know, I suppose, you could take an extreme action and resign from the board but that’s not something I’d be prepared to do at this point. But I feel strongly that SOGI materials should be available for use in the classroom as teachers see appropriate.

One of the things I’ve been concerned about with the anti-SOGI people is that they’re presenting it – they’re being deceptive in a way. They’re presenting SOGI materials as a curriculum; it’s as if they’re implying that “transgenderism” – a term they use, and I don’t understand what it means – but they’re presenting it as a curriculum that’s taught on a regular basis, almost like math or something and it’s not; it’s just a set of materials. Those materials are available to teachers to deal with situations when they arise in their classrooms. For example, if somebody is presenting – say a boy, is presenting as very effeminate. And then some children might do the “gay” thing, making fun of him for that. The teacher would then be able to access resources in SOGI, have a lesson with the class and teach them what exactly being gay means, and why people are the way they are based on the materials available.

Teachers aren’t experts on sexuality so they have to use the resources, but they cannot allow a situation where there’s discrimination or harassment of a kid based on their gender identity or sexual orientation. It has to be dealt with, and this gives teachers the tools to deal with those situations. This is why I support the use of SOGI materials when appropriate in the classroom.

 

Vanessa MacLean 

MacLean said she couldn’t make a statement at this time.

 

Christian Stapff

I am a teacher, who is always concerned with creating an environment, which does not tolerate bullying, discrimination or harassment. Calling out these behaviors is not enough. We need to explain to our students that acceptance of difference and including all who are different with respect to gender and sexual orientation is a what makes us human. Education and other processes are important in having students see this and at the very least be tolerant.

I have experienced discrimination and other negative behaviors, for various reasons…and I am comfortably heterosexual. I can safely say when people denigrate your chosen sport or activity or where you are from, we have much work to do to educate and correct such bullying behavior. It is worse when we denigrate a person’s identity. I cannot imagine if such negative actions are experienced daily how traumatic this might be. So, my support for the SOGI 123 program is not just shaped by my profession—being an educator—but also personal experience. And who are we as fellow human beings, if we reject others as evil or bad, based on their orientation or identity, and stand by and do nothing? As Edmund Burke aptly said: “The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing”.

When such vulnerable groups have suicide rates seven times higher (SEVEN times!!) than the “normal population”, something has to be done. The evidence also points to the fact that sexual orientation and gender identity are a small and consistent population who identify with a particular orientation and/or identity—in fact a minority—who deserve the same protection under the human rights code as anyone else. I believe SOGI 123 addresses this—of course with a specific focus—to give such vulnerable groups the just treatment all of us expect and deserve. It also provides well-developed resources, which are evidence-based.

I am not sure how to answer the second question (if it does get repealed…) as this is a Ministry of BC-mandated resource and I am not aware of any efforts to repeal this policy and program. In closing, I thank you for asking about this and it is my hope to be one of many good men who believe all, who need protection, respect and dignity get it and hope do so by supporting this program.