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Letter to the editor: Student safety at stake in school board meetings

All 60 school districts, as well as independent and First Nations schools, have SOGI-inclusive codes of conduct and policies in place.
The School District 57 headquarters in Prince George.

To feel seen, to feel accepted, to feel safe and supported: These are the basic conditions that every student in Prince George deserves when they are at school.

This is also what is at stake when debates about school resources that meet BC Human Rights Code standards and are explicitly supported by the Ministry of Education and Childcare devolve into derogatory misinformation.

We understand that parents and guardians simply want the best for their children—as teachers, that’s what we want too. It’s okay to ask questions; it’s okay to express concern.

However, public discourse must also be held to a certain standard of civility and centered in accurate information for it to be constructive. Recently, a member of the public was thanked at a Prince George school board meeting for his “great courage” in making a comment that included inaccurate claims of rising abuse by teachers and “confusion” among children about their gender. By failing to uphold that standard of civility and accuracy that we as teachers, employees, and parents expect, the board representative reinforced false narratives about inclusive sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) school resources and undermined the professionalism of educators—the district’s own employees.

SOGI-inclusive education is about treating everyone with dignity and respect. It’s a small step toward creating a kinder world by reflecting the natural diversity of sexual orientation and gender identity among us. It is a recognition that all students deserve to see themselves and their families reflected in lessons, language, and practices—not just those who fit within outdated stereotypes.

Despite significant progress, discriminatory rhetoric has continued to echo in some school districts and in campaigns by some school trustees and trustee candidates across B.C. It’s our duty to stand up against it and show our LGBTQ2S+ community members they are valued.

No student should be excluded or bullied because of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression—full stop.

Homophobic and transphobic voices may be loud, but they are the minority. The weight of the B.C. public education system, and the professionals within it, stands behind inclusive education.

In 2016, the BC Human Rights Code was amended to ensure gender identity and expression are protected under the code, and school districts have the duty to enforce that.

In September, the Ministry of Education and Childcare and organizations representing trustees, superintendents, principals, support staff, parents, and First Nations issued a joint statement in support of SOGI resources.

All 60 school districts, as well as independent and First Nations schools, have SOGI-inclusive codes of conduct and policies in place.

Education is key. These situations can be difficult, and we believe that with training, school boards, trustees, and other leaders can better identify what qualifies as fair comment and what is misinformation that may harm their LGBTQ2S+ students and employees and should be interrupted and corrected.

We also encourage anyone with further questions to explore these resources:

At the end of the day, we are all responsible for creating K–12 environments where students feel safe to be fully and completely themselves.

Clint Johnston is the President of the BC Teachers’ Federation. Daryl Beauregard is the President of the Prince George District Teachers’ Association.

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