One of the biggest anti-SOGI advocates in the Fraser Valley, Jenn Smith, presented to the Fraser-Cascade School Board (SD 78) at the March 5 meeting, but what will come from it remains to be seen.
In an email submitted late last year, a delegation lead by Smith requested time to present before the board regarding “the dangers certain kinds of material found in new digital resource databases pose to vulnerable children with psychological and emotional troubles.”
As there are no specific guidelines within the District requiring delegations to be local residents, the Abbotsford-based Smith was given 10 minutes to present his position that the sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) resource adopted by the British Columbia Ministry of Education in 2017 is bad for children.
Transgender is a “social contagion … and it starts in the schools,” said Smith, who identifies as transgender. He then urged the board to “set up processes to alert parents (to the usage of these materials), or to ban the resources completely.”
SOGI 123, as the resource is officially called, is a collection of materials for teachers to help them create a more inclusive environment for students of all genders, sexual orientations and backgrounds.
Since it was implemented, it has been a topic of great debate in places like Chilliwack, which saw a number of school trustees run in the last election based on their opposition to the resource.
It also seemed to be a topic of interest to many in the Fraser-Cascade school district: assistant superintendent Kevin Bird noted this was the first time he’d seen this many members of the public at a school board meeting. The majority of spectators left after Smith’s presentation.
Yet, at the end of the meeting, Laura and William Baptiste, who say they recently moved to Hope, questioned trustees about Smith’s presentation, and wanted to not only know why the board hadn’t asked any questions, but also wanted to know what the trustees’ responses to the material were.
As elected officials, “you have power over (our) children, and that’s a great responsibility,” said William. “I just want to make sure that people are thinking about these things and not just the typical responses for people (where) they put their head in the sand.”
Unfortunately, “we don’t respond during the meeting to delegations,” explained board chair Linda Kerr. “We take it in and (will maybe) discuss it at a later date.”
However, Kerr pointed out that like many of their provincial counterparts, SD78 passed a motion in October 2017 to join 57 of B.C.’s 60 school districts in creating a SOGI network of schools.
“Our over-arching goal is inclusion,” added superintendent Karen Nelson, who also presented at the meeting on the District’s recent Pro-D day on March 1, which showcased renowned speaker and LGBTQ2S advocate, Ivan Coyote.