Chilliwack School District was thrown into the SOGI discussions when a trustee posted his anger with the policy on his publicly accessible Facebook page. (Black Press file)

Teachers from Maple Ridge voice support for SOGI

Important to support LGBTQ+ students, say educators

Two teachers with connections to Maple Ridge are voicing their support for the SOGI 123 curriculum.

The pair waded into the controversy with a social media posting headlined SOGI Support, addressed to administrators, school board members, teachers, students and allies.

“In light of some of the hateful commentary and actions surrounding its implementation in BC school districts, we feel compelled to offer our whole-hearted advocacy,” wrote Kathryn Ferguson and Erin Talbot.

“In short, we will not tread lightly. We will not honour rejections of this initiative. We will not allow hate to weave a web of abuse withing the halls and walls of our public schools.

“Today, out of respect for brave LGBTQ+ youth, we will stand up for them. We stand with all LGBTQ+ youth. Furthermore, we do so with immense pride.”

The statement also tells the students of Chilliwack “you are not alone.”

There was a rally in Chilliwack last month calling for an end to B.C.’s sexual orientation and gender identity education materials. It was put on by Culture Guard, which says its promotes natural family rights. Chilliwack School District Trustee said in October that it is child abuse to allow young children to choose their gender, and called SOGI 123 a “weapon of propaganda” which is being promoted by the “LGBTQ lobby.” He later offered an apology if his opinions offended by his opinion. The BC Teachers’ Federation has called for him to step down.

This week, Neufeld likened himself to a prophet. He posted another long statement on his Facebook page on Sunday morning, stating among other things that the government may be starting to take children away from families and placing them “in homes where they will be encouraged to explore homosexuality and gender fluidity.”

It has been hard to watch for the teachers who have worked with LGBTQ+ youth. Ferguson is a teacher at Thomas Haney Secondary who is off on medical leave, while Talbot is currently on leave.

The pair were leaders in advocating for LGBTQ+ rights in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows schools, and Talbot was part of the district’s Safe Caring and Healthy Schools Policy.

Ferguson calls Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows “the little district that could” for its progressive attitudes. It also added gender neutral washrooms at some schools this year.

Ferguson said they collaborated on the SOGI Support statement over the phone.

“I have never seen hate of this magnitude from any of our districts,” she said. It was breaking my heart. It was breaking both of our hearts, because we’ve seen the amazing results LGBTQ+ events and education can have,” she said. “We wanted to put out a call to arms for everyone who is like minded.”

She said the SOGI curriculum is “fantastic,” and is long overdue.

“They kids are always miles ahead of us.”

As a teacher, she said a student’s face might brighten up just by someone asking questions like what pronoun do they prefer

“They think: ‘They get me. They respect me,’ and it’s huge.”

Conversely, she said a young LGBTQ+ student who is trying to figure out their identity could find ignorant tweets and Facebook posts damaging.

“If you’re just 14 you haven’t built up that armour yet,” she said.

“I just want to do my part in shutting down this abusive language.”

There have been rallies and expressions of support in Abbotsford and in Langley recently.

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