A number of people wore rainbow flags and rainbow clothing to the School District No. 57 (SD57) public meeting Tuesday night, in response to anti-LGBTQIA comments made by a member of the public at the previous meeting.
During the public remarks section of the Dec. 13 meeting, a parent spoke to address a school bussing issue but went on to criticize the district stating that “student-teacher abuse cases are up” and that “the number of children having psychological issues is up, and the amount of children who are confused about their gender is up.”
Board Chair Rachael Weber responded by thanking the presenter for taking the time to come and make his comments.
Daryl Beauregard, president of the Prince George District Teacher’s Association (PGDTA), then wrote a letter to the SD57 Board of Education and the Ministry of Education addressing his concerns regarding those comments, as well as concerns over a Christian prayer which was said at the beginning of that meeting.
He said that a Christian prayer could be alienating to anyone who doesn’t identify as Christian.
Beauregard spoke to the board regarding the issues he raised in his letter at the Jan. 31 meeting.
“A member of the public was thanked and praised for stating a series of unsubstantiated attacks on public education, the work of my members, and the lawful gender identity curriculum that allows our students to feel belonging at school no matter how they identify or who they are as people,” said Beauregard.
“I call upon you to, instead of praising and thanking members of the public who attack your staff, to ask them to leave.”
Weber responded to Beauregard’s remarks by stating she would address his comment on the Christian prayer.
“This was not a Christian prayer, this was written by the Elders of the McLeod Lake Indian Band and I was blessed with it and asked to say it at the meeting. So, before you start commenting and addressing certain prayers and certain religions, please make sure that your facts are correct.”
Beauregard said he found it anti-democratic.
Later in the meeting, Trustee Erica McLean became quite emotional as she took a moment to speak about respect and diversity.
“We did receive valuable feedback regarding content and inaccuracies of statements made, by stakeholders and rights holders, in recent public process. I think it remains necessary we meet our community partner groups where they are at and try to move forward together from there,” said McLean.
“I have hope we can get to a place where we will not other those who don’t think like us or see things the way we do. Where we can truly celebrate safety and inclusion for all, but we can only do this work together.”
Beauregard said he wrote the letter because he felt the board needs to respect the diversity of all students and staff.
“By allowing a member of the public to criticize our work like that, it makes it unsafe to be a student in this district who doesn't conform to the binary norm, or to be a staff,” he said.
“It did seem that Trustee McLean was maybe responding with some of the things that I wrote in my letter, and I wanted them to, so I welcome a response, and I welcome that it was in the public dialogue.”
He said these are very important concerns for PGDTA members and he doesn’t want the board to stay silent on these issues.
“We are struggling with a wave of rhetoric across British Columbia that is denigrating people that do not fit the binary norm, and I would like our trustees to adhere to their policies and put a stop to comments in their space that do that.”