Superintendent Evelyn Novak and Trustee Dan Coulter were among the audience for a talk from Matt Carruthers, the B.C. SOGI Education lead, at the annual BCSTA Trustee Academy in Richmond over the weekend. (Photo: BCSTA)

Superintendent Evelyn Novak and Trustee Dan Coulter were among the audience for a talk from Matt Carruthers, the B.C. SOGI Education lead, at the annual BCSTA Trustee Academy in Richmond over the weekend. (Photo: BCSTA)

Select Chilliwack school trustees attend BCSTA ‘academy’

Sexual orientation and gender identity hot topics among provincial school trustees

School trustees had the chance to learn more about the sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) teacher resources over the weekend, and a handful of Chilliwack’s trustees took that offer.

Trustees Dan Coulter, Bob Patterson, and board chair Paul McManus joined Chilliwack School District superintendent Evelyn Novak at the BC School Trustee Association’s annual Trustee Academy in Richmond. While the focus of the academy covered a wide breadth of education topics, with numerous speakers, the two-day event also included much discussion surrounding SOGI and transgender awareness.

Coulter says the weekend was “terrific,” and really opened his eyes to how strongly other districts have embraced transgender students, teachers, staff and parents.

“There are no trustees, other than in our district, that are against it that I can find,” Coulter said. “And the minister [of education] said he was interested in implementing despite the efforts of one ‘small but well-funded’ group. He was not deterred by them.”

‘They’ are Culture Guard, and its leader Kari Simpson. They are against teachers using a government-approved resource called SOGI 123. And so is Chilliwack trustee Barry Neufeld; he took to Facebook to argue against its use back in October. Neufeld quickly apologized for offending people, but has since aligned himself with Culture Guard. They held a rally to support Neufeld and defend their views last Tuesday, where Neufeld spoke as a special guest.

At the rally Neufeld accused the government of ushering in a pro-LGBTQ agenda without consulation or explanation. Trustee Heather Maahs, who also has spoken up about fears surrounding SOGI 123, was also at the rally but not as a speaker.

Niether trustee attended the BCSTA’s Trustee Academy. Either did trustees Silvia Dyck or Walt Krahn. The plenary speakers included a transgender advocate and author, Ivan Coyote, and Matt Curruthers, the B.C. SOGI education lead.

Coyote’s presentation had the room enraptured, said Coulter.

“They were terrific, an amazing storyteller,” he said.

While SOGI and SOGI 123 were a focus of the weekend, he added that this is not the first anyone has heard of it, despite Culture Guard saying it’s been ushered in quietly.

“It’s been talked about for a long time, and Kari [Simpson] has been talking about this a long time,” he said.

Still, the messages are important to hear, Coulter said.

“What really resonated for me was that we run public institutions, a public school system. Why can’t every single person access them? You can’t really call it a public school if it’s not for everyone,” he said.

“I’m in a wheelchair. Public buildings are all made accessible for me. Why aren’t they accessible for everyone?”

He said whether school boards accept SOGI 123 teacher materials or not is both relevant and irrelevant.

“It’s irrelevant because schools have to follow the Human Rights Code,” Coulter said. “If they’re not using the actual SOGI they’re using something that approximates it. But you need the leader of the school district to support all students, and it really sends a message throughout the entire school district if you have trustees taking shots at it, or targeting transgender students.”

And to be clear, he said, those who don’t support SOGI often don’t support other rights of the LGBTQ community, such as gay marriage or same sex couples adopting.

“These things are not controversial in the rest of Canada, gay marriage is legalized by a Conservative government,” he added. “(Culture Guard’s) views are extreme, including the views on transgender people.”

It’s estimated that 10 per cent of the population have a different sexual orientation or gender identity than their birth gender.

“That’s 1,300 of our students (in Chilliwack),” he said.


@CHWKcommunity
jpeters@theprogress.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Harrison Hot Springs country singer Todd Richard poses for a photo with Mission firefighters. (Photo/Sarah Plawutski)
VIDEO: Harrison country artist Todd Richard plans for a busy, rockin’ summer

Richard and his band look to live shows as restrictions start to lift

The theme for this year’s Fraser Valley Regional Library Summer Reading Club is “Crack the Case” and Katie Burns, community librarian at the Chilliwack Library, is encouraging people of all ages to sign up. She is seen here at the Chilliwack Library on Friday, June 18, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Crack the case, read, win prizes with FVRL Summer Reading Club

‘Immerse yourself in other worlds and have a bit of fun while you do it,’ says Chilliwack librarian

Cpl. Scott MacLeod and Police Service Dog Jago. Jago was killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 17. (RCMP)
Abbotsford police, RCMP grieve 4-year-old service dog killed in line of duty

Jago killed by armed suspect during ‘high-risk’ incident in Alberta

Holger Schwichtenberg and his son Philip talk in the barn of the 150-acre Schwichtenberg farm. This farm is one of many throughout B.C. that support more than 12,500 jobs across the province in the dairy industry. (Contributed Photo/B.C. Dairy Association)
Agassiz dairy farm a model of care for environment, animals, and family

Farm is part of a dairy sector centred in the Fraser Valley, supporting 12,500 jobs province-wide

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Border quarantine to soon lift for fully vaccinated Canadians

Eligible travellers must still take multiple COVID-19 tests

A portion of the George Road wildfire burns near Lytton, B.C. in this Friday, June 18, 2021 handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, BC Wildfire Service *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Blaze near Lytton spread across steep terrain, says BC Wildfire Service

Fire began Wednesday and is suspected to be human-caused, but remains under investigation

(Black Press Media files)
Burnaby RCMP look for witnesses in hit-and-run that left motorcyclist dead

Investigators believe that the suspect vehicle rear-ended the motorcycle before fleeing the scene

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

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

Blair Lebsack, owner of RGE RD restaurant, poses for a portrait in the dining room, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. Canadian restaurants are having to find ways to deal with the rising cost of food. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Canadian restaurateurs grapple with rising food costs, menu prices expected to rise

Restaurants are a low margin industry, so there’s not a lot of room to work in additional costs

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
Fort St. John man arrested after allegedly inviting sexual touching from children

Two children reported the incident to a trusted adult right away

Most Read