Heather Maahs suggested that Chilliwack school children are ‘being groomed’ during a video interview with controversial talk-show host Laura-Lynn Tyler Thompson.
Maahs and Barry Neufeld, both Chilliwack school trustees, were guests on Tyler Thompson’s internet show May 26.
According to the show description at lauralynn.tv, they were there to discuss “the negligence in protecting children from incredibly sexual content in the Canadian school systems, and what is being done about it.”
Neufeld and Maahs talked about the lack of a dress code in Chilliwack schools and the presence of sexualized content in Chilliwack school libraries. In particular, Maahs referenced a book titled ‘All Boys aren’t Blue.’
According to a the book’s publisher, MacMillan Publishers, the book is a memoir written by journalist and LGBTQ+ activist George M. Johnson and “covers topics such as gender identity, toxic masculinity, brotherhood, family, inequality, consent, and Black joy.”
Maahs said the book is available in the library of a Chilliwack high school and contains descriptions of “boy-on-boy” sexual situations.
“This is not just sex education that’s gone too far. This is way over the top,” Maahs said, when asked about the book. “You said maybe grooming. It’s for sure grooming.
“It desensitizes kids and it’s all in the name of LGBTQ because it’s boy on boy, and I’m talking young boys being depicted in stories with things I’ve never even heard of. It’s bad.”
The definition of grooming, according to the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children in the United Kingdom, is to “build a relationship, trust and emotional connection with a child or young person so they can manipulate, exploit and abuse them.”
Maahs suggested that is what is happening.
“There are some who are bound and determined to indoctrinate our kids and desensitize them with materials that should not be there,” Maahs said.
The book has been removed from school libraries in several U.S. states and Maahs said it was briefly taken off the shelf in Chilliwack after she complained.
“They looked at it, put some big stickers on it saying it was LGBTQ and caution, and put it back in the library,” Maahs said. “I said, ‘Well that’s great. Now the kids are going to see the stickers and want to check it out.’”
Willow Reichelt, vice chair of the Chilliwack school board, seemed to be the main focus of Neufeld’s and Maahs’ ire, with Neufeld referring to her as “very radical.”
She also mentioned Reichelt’s husband, who is a librarian at a district school. It’s generally considered out of bounds for trustees to talk about individual teachers, staff or students in public.
“My husband is an employee of the school district and an outstanding teacher-librarian,” Reichelt said. “All SD33 employees, including my husband, deserve to be treated with respect by their employers. I believe that attacking the family members of a political opponent is morally reprehensible.”
Regarding the controversial book, Reichelt admitted she hasn’t read it, but she described it as an award winner that was given a starred review by Kirkus (Book Review Service) and glowing reviews by School Library Journal, Booklist and the New York Times.
She said teachers purchase resources with LGBTQ characters or content because there are LGBTQ+ kids/teens/staff/families in the community, and called the notion of grooming children false, hurtful and homophobic.
“Diverse representation leads to empathy, compassion, understanding and a sense of belonging,” she said. “Sexuality is part of human experience, and some books written for a teen audience contain sexual content. Young-adult fiction presents this content in an age-appropriate manner and tends to focus on the social-emotional aspects.
“This is clearly not a book that should be pulled from the shelves, and the agenda of the trustees calling for it to be pulled should be obvious to anyone who has been paying attention for the last four years.”
Rohan arul-Pragasm, superintendent of SD33, contacted The Progress after this story was first published to add that “Educators in Chilliwack are diligent in ensuring we continue to support and promote diversity and human rights while selecting resources that incorporate diverse racial backgrounds, lived experiences, equity and that reflect First Nations and BIPOC voices.”