SD 71 school trustee candidates answer questions on sexual identity issue

The four unacclaimed SD 71 candidates were asked their stance the SOGI issue

The four unacclaimed candidates for School District 71 trustee positions were asked their stance the issue of sexual orientation and gender identity.

James Derry (Area B), Michelle Waite (Area B), Randi Baldwin (Comox) and Tonia Frawley (Comox) were all asked the following question:

What is your stance on sexual orientation and gender identity as it is being promoted at the school level?

Are you familiar with the SOGI 123 resource available for teachers in school districts across the province and if so, are you in support of the resources? Are there areas you disagree with, or areas that you feel could still be improved upon?

Here are their responses.

James Derry:

I fully support SOGI (Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity) as mandated by the province in British Columbia schools. I am familiar with SOGI 123 resource materials for teachers for Kindergarten to Grade 12, and have examined some of the video presentations and suggested lesson plans for various grade levels.

James Derry

Every child has the right to attend school and be educated without fear of being bullied or threatened because of their sex, race, religion, disability, or sexual identification. School must be a safe and welcoming place of learning free of the anxiety of discrimination.

SOGI 123 is a resource for teachers to help make this environment possible. It is not a curriculum. However, parents have every right to express their concerns or questions to their Parent Advisory Council, to the schools their children attend, and to the school board. Questions such as how early must this instruction begin, how many hours a school term is it to be used, does it conflict with my faith, and if so, can I opt my child out? are all valid.

If elected, I look forward to working with all those involved with our school district and community, whether a teacher, parent, student, or support staff.

Michelle Waite:

What and how children are taught needs to evolve in order for our children to experience the education they need to advance them well prepared into the next stages of their lives. We need only to be reminded of the evolution of computers and mobile phones to know that change is constant. Or that corporal punishment used to be allowed in schools, and that children were forbidden to be left-handed at school to know that our education system has evolved and will continue to do so.

Michelle Waite

In order to share my thoughts on sexual orientation and gender identity as it is being promoted at the school level I believe we need to first understand how we got to this place. In 2016, the BC Human Rights Code was expanded to include “gender identity or expression” For context, the Code now states that you cannot discriminate because of the “race, colour, ancestry, place of origin, religion, marital status, family status, physical or mental disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or age of that person or that group or class of persons”. The Ministry of Education then required all schools to include sexual orientation and gender identity into their anti-bullying policies in order to reduce discrimination for students, especially those who identify as LGBTQ. I support children being educated, using age-appropriate information, regarding all forms of bullying and discrimination.

As neither a teacher nor a current trustee, the area of SOGI 123 is one that I would like to learn more about; however, based on the information I have read on the SOGI 123 resources for teachers, I am in support of these resources. As approved resources on the topic of sexual orientation and gender identity are a mandatory requirement in all BC school districts, I support our District using the same resource – currently SOGI 123 – as most BC school districts. As with any resource, both the content and delivery methods will evolve.

As a trustee candidate I would be remise not to expand the conversation to encompass a few areas that should be discussed regarding our public education system. Due to limited resources, school districts across BC are struggling to meet the needs of students. This includes shortages of teachers and education assistants, the increase of classroom portables, limited direct resources in classrooms supporting students with diverse learning needs, to many pressure points created by years of inadequate funding. Our School District is not immune to some of these pressures. With 8,800 students and over 1,200 staff in School District #71, this creates long-term impacts on many families in our community. While issues with SOGI 123 are getting the majority of the media attention let’s not forget about the many important issues that need to be addressed to ensure that the quality public education we all want to provide to children can happen.

Lastly, I encourage you to vote. In the Comox Valley we can say that every vote counts – and mean it.

Randi Baldwin:

To answer the questions I have divided them into 3 parts.

1. What is my stance on sexual orientation and gender identity as it is promoted at the school level ?

As a library clerk who has worked in the school district for 16 years I have related to children on an individual basis. I was an audience for their opinions and feelings. As a result I have a profound empathy and respect for those students struggling with their sexual/gender identity. It must be very difficult for them and their families.

Randi Baldwin

2. Are you familiar with the SOGI 123 resource available for teachers ?

I know of the resource but have never actually seen it used. I would like to visit classrooms and observe student response and ask parents what their understanding of the resource is. I believe it is an optional not a mandatory resource.

3. Are there areas you disagree with or that you feel could still be improved upon ?

I have been retired for 2 years and so am trying to get up to speed on all the issues I need to know about. Being a library research focused type of person I come with more questions than answers, such as:

– does this resource benefit, enrich and support all children ?

– is the information conveyed at the various grade levels age appropriate?

– are parents well versed with all aspects of the resource?

– does it take into account individual children’s needs as well as their families life perceptions?

I would say in conclusion that I am concerned with all the controversy that surrounds this resource. I will work hard to find out more about it.

Tonia Frawley

SOGI seems to be a very hot topic this election. In fact, it seems to be the only topic that I am being asked about and if I support it. As the weeks have passed by, I have even stronger views on SOGI 123 as I hear and see the misconceptions that are floating around the community.

Tonia Frawley

SOGI is an acronym for Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity. It is a term that includes all of us as we all have sexual orientation.

SOGI 123 is now being implemented in our schools across the province and has three components to it.

The first is policies and procedure. The government implements the curriculum and the individual school boards set the policies and process

The second is an inclusive environment. This is to provide a safe space that offers welcoming language and is free of discrimination.

The third is curriculum resources. All educators in BC have access to resources and tools that align with the existing curriculum. It is meant to be customized as desired and needed. This needs to be fluid as there will be constant changes based on the families moving through our schools.

We are asked as candidates if we support SOGI and where we stand on it. As an individual and as a parent I do support SOGI 123 and here is why…I believe every person has a right to play, live, work and be educated in a safe and caring environment free from harassment, bullying,

and intimidation. We live in a diverse society and it is never okay to discriminate. We need to build understanding and to learn how to treat each other with dignity and respect. SOGI needs to be part of our many topics regularly discussed. According to a parent session that my husband and I attended with Dr. Claire years ago, I am an “askable adult”. My three children

can come to us and ask us about anything and we will be open and honest with them…even if it means telling them that we don’t know the answer but we will try to find it. Some parents may not be as willing, some may be embarrassed by the topic of conversation and sometimes a parent is not available for a variety of reasons. That is why I feel it is important to have educators who have the correct language and appropriate definitions teaching this subject matter. This allows all students to have the same information and knowledge base. Our educators are key to student success. This isn’t just academic success. This is all of the other

components that our educators teach our students to be successful in their lives in that great big world. We live in a world full of obstacles and challenges. We all have had a teacher or another adult at school who made a difference in our lives. Some who have saved lives and probably don’t even know it. SOGI is a very important subject that must continue just as curriculum and resources will need to constantly change and improve.

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