LGBTQ+ advocate John Federici (right) stands with a pro-SOGI sign alongside his husband, Karl Federici, following an interview on SOGI learning resources in Abbotsford schools. Dustin Godfrey/Abbotsford News

VOTING DAY: Questions and clarity on SOGI 123 in Abbotsford

Candidates raise concerns, but advocate says opposition to SOGI 123 ‘uneducated’

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.

RELATED: Abbotsford candidate list released as nomination period closes

“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.

Find our Abbotsford Election Hub here.

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.

Abbotsford candidate rankings
Infogram

RELATED: Here’s what you need to know about Abbotsford’s 17 school board candidates

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.

Find all local election-related coverage here.

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Dustin Godfrey | Reporter

@dustinrgodfrey

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