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Abbotsford school superintendent explains SOGI as misinformation circulates

School district releases statement on learning materials on heels of growing community complaints

Two leaders in Abbotsford’s public education system have released a statement to the community regarding SOGI 123.

Sean Nosek, superintendent of schools, and Korky Neufeld, board of education chair, sent out the statement Wednesday morning (Oct. 11) following numerous rallies that have popped up in the community. One turned into a protest that shut down a board meeting and required a hold-and-secure in the board office for staff and trustees.

The large rallies and protests are surrounding SOGI 123, and the statement from Nosek and Neufeld attempts to clear up some of the confusion around what it actually means, as well as how to best direct complaints to the right people in the school district.

“We feel it is imperative to address the narrative surrounding sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) in our community, and we want to provide you with credible resources to support your ongoing learning,” the statement reads. “Parents and caregivers instill values at home. Schools provide learning opportunities to support inclusivity and help students develop as global, educated citizens.”

The statement says that a “welcoming education system” is essential for student success.

“Research has shown us that when students feel a sense of safety, belonging, and acceptance, it positively impacts school attendance, feelings of attachment and connectedness, academic achievement and overall well-being,” they state.

And most crucially, they want to clear up that SOGI 123 is not part of the B.C. curriculum.

They clarify that SOGI 123 is a set of learning resources, and they are “not mandated or required but serve as a toolkit educators can use to talk about diverse topics and build welcoming spaces where all students can learn, grow and thrive.”

The statement includes links to both a video and website that explain the learning resources.

What is part of the curriculum is physical and health education, and that includes learning on sensitive topics related to reproduction and sexuality. But that is not something laid out by local boards of education.

“What students learn throughout their K-12 journey is clearly outlined on the Ministry of Education and Child Care (ECC) website, broken down by grade,” the statement explains. “Parents/caregivers can choose whether their child learns about these topics at home, at school, or both.”

However, that doesn’t mean there isn’t an opportunity to discuss concerns with staff. The letter explains the process of communicating issues between schools and families.

“Building positive relationships between parents and educators is a cornerstone of our school district,” they write.

Questions around a lesson plan in class can be taken to the classroom teacher. Questions about a learning resource at your child’s school can be answered by the school principal.

“Our goal is to work together and foster positive relationships to ensure that all students can learn in safe and inclusive environments,” the letter states.

The best place to start is with the person whose action has “given rise” to the concerns or problem.

The next step if you need further assistance is the school principal. If not resolved at the school level, then parents or guardians can contact one of the assistant superintendents.

Finally, if those steps are not successful, or if an administrator’s decision “significantly affects a student’s education, health or safety, parents may appeal in writing to the board of education.”

“We remain steadfast in our priority of providing safe learning and working environments for all students and employees and cultivating space to ensure everyone in our organization feels respected, valued and supported,” the statement concludes.

READ MORE: PHOTOS: Groups for, against SOGI clash in Chilliwack again

An officer asks protesters to step off the road at an anti-SOGI 123 rally in Chilliwack on Oct. 10. There has been a surge of protests in the Fraser Valley recently. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)

Jessica Peters

About the Author: Jessica Peters

I began my career in 1999, covering communities across the Fraser Valley ever since.
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