BURNABY, British Columbia, June 15, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) – A controversial “homophobia/heterosexism” policy that has been the subject of protests in the last few months was passed by board trustees with the Burnaby School District last night in a “unanimous” vote.
Two of the seven board trustees, however, were not present at the meeting to vote; they did not respond to a LifeSiteNews inquiry as to the reasons for their absence.
“Our schools reflect the increasing diversity in our rapidly changing communities,” said Board Chair, Larry Hayes. “We believe this policy will help to foster respect, acceptance and understanding in our schools – and our community.”
Despite an outcry from The Parents’ Voice, a group of concerned students and parents, who submitted Freedom of Information requests for information pertaining to planned curriculum changes and committee meeting minutes, the draft policy was only slightly changed last week following a 14-week period of public input.
The policy, initially entitled the “Homophobia/Heterosexism” Policy, was approved under the new title, “Sexual Orientation/Gender Identity” Policy, reflecting the changes to words, definitions, and language within the policy.
Unlike the draft policy, which defined “heterosexism” within the policy as a “mistaken assumption” that “perpetuates negative stereotypes and is dangerous to individuals and communities,” the new policy has moved the definition to a glossary. The new policy also removes the word “mistaken” from the definition and defines “heterosexism” as an “assumption that all people are heterosexual and that heterosexuality is superior and more desirable for all people than any other sexual orientation.”
“With regards to the changes,” said Gordon World, a parent and spokesman for The Parents’ Voice, “they are very superficial, minor watering down of some of the more inflammatory terms. Structurally it is the same.”
“If anything, some of the changes are potentially worse as far as we’re concerned,” added World. “The new definition is no better than the original, it’s just different.”
Last week the board called a press conference, which, World told LifeSiteNews, “was essentially a press conference about nothing.” Despite claims to “transparency” and a few allusions to changes, the board did not allow the press or parents to view the draft changes until the final vote last night.
According to the board’s press release today, the amended version of the policy removed “language that could be perceived as subjective” and provided “clarification of how the policy regulations and procedures align with Ministry of Education standards and prescribed learning outcomes.”
Especially disappointing for pro-family activists, the new version also makes reference to inclusion of a GSA-type club in the intermediate grades, whereas the original draft had only promoted GSA clubs in high schools. The approved policy now reads, “clubs which respect and celebrate all forms of diversity will be encouraged for intermediate elementary school students.”
The board has also moved away from using the word “embed” in regards to implementation of the policy within the curriculum. World says that, in this regard, the board does have a legitimate reason. “They do make a valid point in so much that they don’t determine the content of the curriculum … ultimately the content rests with the Ministry of Education,” he said.
“The whole process has been very non-democratic,” World said. “They brag that they’ve spent two years consulting all the stakeholders, but it has been only in the final weeks that they have taken it to the parents.”
Concerned parents have argued that Burnaby’s extensive Code of Conduct, which has been in place for years and prohibits discrimination based on “sexual orientation,” should suffice to fulfill provincial requirements addressing “homophobia.”
World said that while another district in the region has a “fairly inoculate” policy, Burnaby trustees have now passed one of the most “inflammatory [policies] to date,” which he says is in some ways more “controversial” than Vancouver’s highly-debated policy.
“Because of the process that has been followed, or not followed, it has been almost taunting at times,” added World, saying that in the last few days one trustee in particular has remained adamant that the issue is not going back to parents.
On Tuesday, supporters of The Parents’ Voice and the BC Muslim Association, another key opponent of the policy, presented a petition to BC Premier Christy Clark with nearly 5,000 signatures, requesting she back up her “Families First” slogan and intervene on behalf of parents in the Burnaby controversy.
Despite appeals, Clark told CKNW, “They have an issue with their school board and they have to resolve it at the school board level.”
While no plans have been made to date, World said that parents will take some kind of legal action to challenge the process and content of the policy.
“This board will be held accountable — politically and in the courts. The Trustees have failed, administratively, ethically — they have violated the BC Human Rights Code and misled the public and the media — they alone are responsible for creating this costly fiasco,” said World.