A former Chilliwack student has launched an online petition to ask the school board to remove one of their own trustees for anti-LGBTQ statements.
Michael Hayden says he is a member of the LGBTQ community, and was appalled at the tone of Trustee Barry Neufeld’s recent Facebook post. The post railed against sexual orientation and gender identity, and within he said he didn’t want to be a part of Canada if this was norm. He said he would feel more at home in places like Russia or Paraguay, “which recently had the guts to stand up to these radical cultural nihilists.”
Neufeld has since apologized, but not before reaction rippled through the education system.
And the online petition is starting to gain momentum. It’s titled Protect & Support the LGBT youth of School District 33, Chilliwack, and created through petition.org.
“We don’t want your apology – we’d like your resignation from the school board,” Hayden wrote in the petition.
“Recently introduced, SOGI 123 aims to help individual kids, and young adults who identify as LGBT within Elementary, Middle, and High Schools, get through probably one of the hardest times of their life. SOGI 123 aims to make LGBT students feel safe; currently 64% of these students feel unsafe. Elementary, middle, and high school is hard enough for any teenager, and even more confusing for an LGBT teen.”
“Your sheer ignorance on the matter appalls me,” he wrote. “I was a recent student in your district, and I identify as a member of the LGBT community. I have felt unsafe in schools because of my sexual orientation.”
As of Wednesday, 334 people had signed the petition, with a goal of 500.
At the end, he signed off: “This is the part where I’d throw my pocket glitter and make my jazzy exit to some NYC Broadway show tune, but I’m fresh out of pocket glitter, and to angry to sing show tunes.”
By Thursday, a petition was also started by a group in support of Neufeld, called We Support Trustee Barry Neufeld! “Thank You”! on the iPetitions platform. It calls Neufeld “Canada’s Most Courageous School Trustee.”
It starts out saying: “Last week, Barry Neufeld—a trusted and long-serving Chilliwack, BC school trustee—drew the line in the sand against the abuse of both children and the public education system; he said NO to the SOGI Agenda.”
The issue had not been discussed at the board level when Neufeld wrote his Facebook post. The creator of the post is anonymous, and it’s written in an effort to give “pushback,” calling people like Hayden “the empty-minded squawk-box choir.”
“Let’s send a clear message to the left-wing communist thugs and sex activists within the BCTF: that they don’t get to abuse our children and the public education system for their political agenda. Let’s stand in support of trustee Barry Neufeld for exposing this dangerous agenda and saying “NO” to child abuse,” it says. “Let’s send a clear message to the BC Education Minister, Rob Fleming, and all elected officials that they will be defeated if they support this abusive agenda.”
Without naming Neufeld, the Ministry of Education released a statement to the media on Wednesday, titled Standing Up for Inclusion. It was a concerted effort by all of the major associations and government levels involved in delivering education to B.C. public schools.
They are: Minister of Education Rob Fleming, B.C. Teachers’ Federation, B.C. School Superintendents’ Association, B.C. School Trustees’ Association, B.C. Principals and Vice-Principals’ Association, B.C. Association of School Business Officials, Federation of Independent School Associations and B.C. Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils.
They said: “We believe that all schools in our province, public and independent, must be spaces that are safe, acceptable, respectful, and welcoming for all students, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity, race, religion or background. There is no room for discrimination in B.C. schools.
“As provincial education partners, we are unified in this commitment. It is important that we all stand up and together to support inclusive-learning environments. Our goal as teachers, administrators, support staff, trustees and parents is to create learning environments where all students can thrive and live authentic lives.”