Anti SOGI Protests 23
Anti SOGI Protests 23 This article is more than 11 months old
NEWS

Surrey teachers speak out against misinformation around 2SLGBTQ+ education in BC schools

Far-right protesters continue to misrepresent "SOGI" education in BC.

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Weeks after anti-SOGI protesters crashed a local school board meeting, educators in Surrey, British Columbia are speaking out about the wave of anti-2SLGBTQ+ hate sprouting up in parts of BC.

Far-right groups in the province have continued spreading misinformation about SOGI-inclusive education in the province, claiming children are being “groomed” or “sexualized,” and some mobs have taken to highway overpasses, pride parades, and school board meetings to advocate for their “cause.”

At a June 15 school board meeting in Surrey, a small group of anti-SOGI protesters brought signs and a megaphone to disrupt the meeting, hurling insults and going so far as to call educators “pedophiles.” 

Scout Gray, National Program Manager with the Arc Foundation, says there is often a misrepresentation by far-right protesters of what SOGI-inclusive education really means.

“SOGI 123 is a set of resources and support for educators who are trying to be socially inclusive,” Gray told PressProgress.

“That can include what is actually taught in a lesson plan, but that can also include such inclusive policies or physical environments of school.”

Sexual orientation, gender identity and expression are protected in the BC Human Rights Code and the Canadian Charter.

“It is mandated that all schools in BC do what they can to abide by the Human Rights Code. And so that means making sure that schools are safe and inclusive for everyone, regardless of race, culture, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, expression—all of those are connected.”

“Teachers are experts in knowing the curriculum, knowing how to utilize all the resources that are out there, to—in age appropriate ways—support the learning outcomes that are based in the curriculum and SOGI inclusive education is just one small part of that.”

In a statement, BC’s Ministry of Education and Childcare clarified that contrary to the anti-SOGI group’s claims, there is no mandated ‘SOGI curriculum’ in British Columbia. 

“SOGI helps students understand and respect each other’s differences, value human rights and recognize how we can respond to discrimination when it happens,” a ministry spokesperson said in a statement to PressProgress.

“However, topics related to sexual identity are included in the curriculum, as well as learning standards related to things like respecting diversity. For example, learning about bullying and discrimination provides opportunities to discuss discrimination against 2SLGBTQIA+ individuals.”

“Classroom activities are designed to provide age-appropriate learning opportunities to help students understand the impacts of discrimination and improve awareness and understanding of the diverse people around them.”

Some examples of “SOGI” education include discouraging gender stereotypes in younger grades, or in older grades, teaching students not to use “gay” as a pejorative term, and learning about human rights.

Students are also taught about different family structures. For example, books like “Tango Makes Three,” which was recently banned in Florida, helps children understand a same-sex families through a story about a penguin family. 

Students in BC also learn about diversity and inclusivity and the importance of respecting people’s differences.

One Surrey teacher, who asked to remain anonymous, says they have faced a lot of pushback from some parents at their school in regards to implementing SOGI inclusive education.

“In our school catchment area we started finding posters mounted in the neighbourhood that said, ‘Do you know what books are in your child’s classroom? Do you know what your child’s being taught?’ And then it would have Action4Canada and other anti-SOGI email addresses all over the backs of the poster,” they told PressProgress.

“They were posted in front of the school and in front of the park next to the school and across the street from the school. There was a lot of fear mongering happening in our neighborhood for sure.”

The teacher adds that they help run the school’s Gender and Sexuality Alliance club that provides a safe space for students, but a few parents have taken issue with the club’s existence.

“At the club, we just meet on Mondays to have a safe space because not everybody’s home is a safe space. It’s not about teaching (anything),” they added.

“At the parent advisory meeting I came under attack, I was told I was not qualified to teach, that I shouldn’t be teaching these things.”

But the teacher says that the parents attacking them don’t fully understand what SOGI education or GSA groups are about.

“I think the thinking of the right-wing groups is that I’m with a pointer on an old school chalkboard saying L is for Lesbian and G is for Gay, and there’s none of that happening in the schools.”

“The idea of SOGI education is to teach that people are diverse. Families are diverse, and it’s okay to be you. It’s okay to come from a family like yours. The idea of SOGI books, in the real sense, is that kids can start seeing themselves represented in books, and want to learn about the other people that exist in the communities, so that they can be accepting and welcoming.”

The teacher added that in response to the hate at the Surrey School Board meeting, they were heartened to see the board denounce the hatred and demonstrate that discrimination will not be tolerated within the Surrey School District.

“I’m really glad that the district came up with a strongly worded document that they could stand behind now, so that if this is happening in our schools, we don’t have to tolerate it,” they said.

“We can end meetings, we can walk out. Up until that point it felt like, we can tell them, the parents or even some of these professional protesters to stop, but if they don’t stop, what do we do next?”

Following the protests, the teacher said their school was inspired to stand against the hate and show their pride with a rainbow march in front of the school to “counteract the noise and hate.”

“Some of the most beautiful artwork was made by the kindergarten classes at our school, they painted rainbows and their kindergarten ideas of ‘boys can like pink,’ and ‘everyone is welcome’,” they said.

“As long as you keep moving forward, it progresses little by little. Just (don’t) give up on people when you face resistance.

 

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Rumneek Johal
Reporter
Rumneek Johal is PressProgress' BC Reporter. Her reporting focuses on systemic inequality, workers and communities, as well as racism and far-right extremism.

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