As Abbotsford gears up for another school board election, a number of candidates have voiced concerns regarding the SOGI 123 initiative implemented in B.C. schools.
But an advocate for LGBTQ+ youth and their families is pushing back against those rallying against SOGI 123 (sexual orientation and gender identity) and similar resources.
“Should any trustee candidate be against SOGI 123 being a set of resources that teachers can use in the classroom, I personally think that means that the trustees are not only uneducated on this subject, but also don’t represent, nor care enough about the safety of all students, youth and children that identify (as LGBTQ+) within the school system,” said Abbotsford PFLAG president John Federici, who declined to name anyone to avoid appearing to actively endorse any candidate.
In an Abbotsford News survey, 17 trustee candidates ranked issues from one (strongly disagree) to five (strongly agree), including two SOGI-related questions.
Here’s how they line up on SOGI:
1. I support the use of inclusive materials in classrooms set out by the learning resources portion of the SOGI 123 initiative. Average: 3.2/5
Strongly agree: Shelley Godwin, Raj Patara, Heidi Smit-Vinois, Stan Petersen, Freddy Latham
Agree: Preet Rai, Rhonda Pauls
Strongly disagree: Earl Storey, Krista Cardinal, Korky Neufeld
Disagree: Kathryn Sobko
Five candidates were neutral.
2. I accept that the school district must have a SOGI-inclusive code of conduct along with anti-bullying policies, which are mandated by the provincial government. Averaging: 3.9/5
Strongly agree: Pauls, Patara, Smit-Vinois, Petersen, Godwin, Latham, Wilson, Graham Evan MacDonell
Agree: Jared White, Rai
Strongly disagree: None
Disagree: Sobko, Cardinal
Six candidates were neutral.
Candidates were also asked to outline the top-three issues they felt voters needed to know about. SOGI came up in five candidates’ write-ups, including potentially misleading information.
In her submission, Cardinal wrote that “SOGI has not been approved for use in Abbotsford, but it is being used.”
Indeed, no SOGI-related learning resources have been approved for use in Abbotsford, according to school board chair Shirley Wilson, but classes still must meet provincial expectations.
“All schools in B.C. have to meet the expected learning outcomes of B.C.’s curriculum – and topics related to acceptance, diversity, sexual identity are included in the curriculum,” the Ministry of Education said in a statement.
Sobko, on the other hand, wrote that she was concerned that SOGI resources expose “children to sexual content, in every grade starting at the age of 5.”
But none of the SOGI 123 materials for K-7, available on the SOGI 123 website, reviewed by The News contains sexual content, instead focusing on gender labels or pronouns, gender norms and family diversity.