Parents and students at Central elementary in Chilliwack on June 1, 2020. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress file)

Parents and students at Central elementary in Chilliwack on June 1, 2020. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress file)

Chilliwack teachers’ union, MLA applaud directive for ‘more inclusive’ school board

Minister orders board into collaboration with First Nations and Office of Human Rights Commissioner

The Chilliwack Board of Education has been directed by B.C.’s education minister to create “a safe, welcoming and inclusive school community for all students.”

The directive comes after two special advisors spent months delving into the board’s history and recent actions. Their report to the minister, Jennifer Whiteside, was delivered in late February.

Whiteside addressed the report this week, and included six steps that the board needs to take by Oct. 31, 2021. They also will have to submit a progress report in June, and will still have a special advisor supporting and evaluating them.

The board is being asked to:

– review and revise its policies and codes of conduct for students to ensure they promote a safe, welcoming and inclusive school environment;

– establish a plan for enhancing student achievement, with a focus on inclusive education, children and youth in care, and Indigenous students;

– develop a policy regarding inclusive board practices after considering input from the school community;

– review and revise its Code of Ethics for Trustees after obtaining and considering input from the school community;

– work with the Office of the Human Rights Commissioner to arrange and participate in training; and

– collaborate with local First Nations to develop policies and procedures that allow for meaningful engagement with Indigenous community members.

Whiteside’s recommendations are being applauded by both the Chilliwack Teachers’ Association and Chilliwack MLA Dan Coulter, who served on the board prior to being elected to his provincial role.

“I really support the ministers move here,” Coulter said in an interview Wednesday. “She’s done a great job. The B.C. government has a set of values that guide boards of education, and this intervention is to help the board live up to those values, which include student achievement, student outcomes and a commitment to equity.”

He said the work will help “bring the board in line with the School Act,” setting clear steps for the board to follow.

“This is a real step forward, in my view,” he added. “The special advisor’s findings linked the board work back to student achievement and inclusion. And it shows the importance of a locally elected board.”

The Chilliwack Teachers’ Association released a statement of support for Whiteside’s decision.

“For three years, Chilliwack teachers have been calling for intervention by the minister of education,” said CTA President, Ed Klettke. “We are pleased with the recent announcement from Minister Whiteside and we are hopeful to see changes in the conduct of individual trustees and the functionality of the board as a whole.”

The board has been in the news frequently since 2017, when Trustee Barry Neufeld wrote a controversial Facebook post regarding SOGI 123. There have been numerous legal actions since that time, including a human rights complaint against Neufeld, and a defamation suit launched by Neufeld.

The press coverage that followed has had a negative effect locally, Klettke said.

“These comments dampen morale and put a bad light on our schools,” he said. “This has affected teachers, students and the broader community in an extremely negative way.”

He said the minister’s order goes further than they had anticipated, and focuses on the “board’s ability to govern effectively and on the provision of an inclusive and safe learning environment.”

“We welcome the involvement of local First Nations communities and the Office of the Human Rights Commissioner in this important work,” he added. “It is wonderful to see the education minister take action that directs the Chilliwack School Board to address the concerns of teachers and the community. Chilliwack teachers are hopeful that these new directives will enable the Board to conduct their work in a manner that is respectful to all partner groups.”

READ MORE: Special advisors appointed to evaluate Chilliwack school board


@CHWKcommunity
jpeters@theprogress.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Chilliwack School District

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Westbound Highway 1 traffic near Herrling Island is backed up a long way following a vehicle incident. (Photo/Trish Dunbar)
Pedestrian killed in crash near Agassiz

Woman in her 50s struck by moving van

Students in the March 2020 Environmental Mind Grind, which was held at Sevenoaks Shopping Centre before COVID-19 restrictions were put into place. This year’s event is being held virtually. (Submitted photo)
Environmental Mind Grind goes virtual for first time

Event open to Abbotsford and Mission students in Grades 6 to 12

The Abbotsford Centre has the ability to host AHL level games if the Vancouver Canucks or any other NHL team chose to move its affiliate to the arena. (File photo)
Abbotsford Centre ready for AHL if right opportunity presents itself

Building recently upgraded glass and boards, schedule would allow for AHL tenant

In 2012, police in Abbotsford placed surveillance cameras near the Dhaliwal home in the 2500 block of Bradner Road after there were two drive-by shootings in the area. Harb Dhaliwal, 31, has now been identified as the victim of a fatal shooting April 17 in Vancouver. (Abbotsford News file photo)
Abbotsford man named as victim of fatal weekend shooting in Vancouver

Harpreet Dhaliwal, 31, killed outside of Cardero’s restaurant in Coal Harbour

B.C. Agriculture in the Classroom is offering free school tours of The Pencil Patch learning garden in Abbotsford in April, May and June.
Agriculture in the Classroom offers free school tours at learning garden

The Pencil Patch in Abbotsford provides 15 outdoor learning stations

In this image from NASA, NASA’s experimental Mars helicopter Ingenuity lands on the surface of Mars Monday, April 19, 2021. The little 4-pound helicopter rose from the dusty red surface into the thin Martian air Monday, achieving the first powered, controlled flight on another planet. (NASA via AP)
VIDEO: NASA’s Mars helicopter takes flight, 1st for another planet

The $85 million helicopter demo was considered high risk, yet high reward

A man has died after being shot at Coquitlam’s Town Centre Park the evening of Monday, April 19. (Twitter/IHIT)
1 man dead after shooting at Coquitlam park: IHIT

The gunman is still at large, according to the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team

Paramedic Matthew Schlatter of Victoria is living a fuller life today due to the double lung transplant he received in 2019. He encourages B.C. residents to register as an organ donor and let their families know their wishes. (Instagram/Matthew Schlatter)
B.C. man living a full, active life after double-lung transplant

Matt Schlatter encourages people to register as an organ donor to help others live

(Photo by Mojpe/Pixabay)
Canadian kids extracting record amounts from Tooth Fairy

Our neighbours in the U.S. receive slightly less from Tooth Fairy visits

Dr. Bonnie Henry gives her daily media briefing regarding Covid-19 for the province of British Columbia in Victoria, B.C, Monday, December 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Toddler marks youngest British Columbian to die related to COVID-19

Child one of eight people to die from virus this weekend

Families of two of three workers killed in a train derailment near Field, B.C., in 2019 have filed lawsuits accusing Canadian Pacific of gross negligence. The derailment sent 99 grain cars and two locomotives off the tracks. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Families of workers killed in Field train derailment allege negligence in lawsuit

Lawsuits allege the workers weren’t provided a safe work environment

(New Westminster Police)
4 youth arrested after 30-person brawl in New Westminster leaves 1 seriously injured

Police are looking for witnesses who saw the incident take place

Most Read