Surrey school district spokesman Doug Strachan found himself explaining the utility of a Surrey Grade 8 lesson on “open-mindedness” this week after a writer describing himself as a Surrey father expressed outrage about it.
The dad wrote the Now-Leader that his son was told to pretend to be gay and practice “coming out” as part of a class project at Johnston Heights secondary school.
“It is completely ridiculous that teachers are teaching this to Grade 8 students without any notice to parents at all,” the online news tip read. “To ask him to pretend to be gay goes strongly against our family’s religious beliefs and is completely disrespectful to my family. This goes far beyond teaching kids to be kind to everyone. I view this as nothing other than propaganda.”
For his part, Strachan said the father’s take on what happened in the classroom “wouldn’t be a fair characterization of the lesson.”
The Now-Leader reached out to the father for comment. “I am not contacting anyone by phone due to the sensitive and political nature of the topic,” he eventually replied by email. “My children still have to go to school. The school district has said the lesson was modified. I do not know how any modification can make it acceptable though.”
The Surrey dad included in his email to the newspaper photos he said his son took of a paper left by one of the teachers. “As you can see, it goes into depth of getting students to ‘experience’ what it is like to be homosexual.”
It’s entitled “COMING OUT” STARS. The source is Jeff Pierce, University of Southern California.
The plan is discussed in a book entitled SAFE ZONES: Training Allies of LGBTQIA + Young Adults, edited by Kerry John Poynter.
Strachan said a team of teachers was involved in the lesson planning for three Grade 8 classes and “COMING OUT” STARS was “the basis but was not exactly what was done in the class.
“That document was what the teachers selected to use as the basis for the open-mindedness learner attribute lesson plan,” Strachan said. “What may have been on the desk or whatever wasn’t used verbatim by the teachers.
“This lesson plan is to help students understand the attribute of open-mindedness. It could have been religious-related, or some other minority, or you know, there’s a number of different scenarios that could have been used that ask students to have appreciation for the difficulties of minorities or others in how they have to deal with certain aspects of their lives that may require some open-mindedness by others to understand.”
Strachan added the lesson “used sexual orientation. It didn’t say gay men or lesbians. They talked more in broader terms. This particular program is finished, it was done last week, there’s been no concerns, it was done last year, there’s been no previous concerns or complaints of any kind. None to date, we haven’t had any complaints,” he said.
And that includes direct complaints from the father, Strachan noted.
“It is unfortunate the father has an issue with, questions or concerns about something being taught and he goes to the media; he doesn’t go and talk to the teachers or the principal to express his concerns. I encourage him to do that.”
“He may not understand what’s going on.”
So what is going on, then?
“It’s called experiential learning,” Strachan explained.
“It’s going to be difficult to say, ‘Well, here’s how the hour played out,’ or whatever it was. That is the foundation of the plan that was used as a lesson plan and to get into how exactly that played out in the hour or whatever it was, I don’t know.”
“There may be a misunderstanding as to what took place, or some assumptions as to what took place, but we’ve not had any complaints so we haven’t had a chance to explain directly to any parent what it was about.
“I don’t know if it’s in use by the other schools in the district,” Strachan said of the lesson.
“It addresses the issues that we face in a society daily and saying, try to understand what others may have to go through,” he said. “To be clear, this parent’s perceptions can’t be addressed because we have never heard from him.”