Parents to picket school board's anti-homophobia policy
Published Tuesday, May 24, 2011 3:12PM PDT
A group of Burnaby, B.C. parents say a draft school board policy designed to combat homophobia and bullying is discriminatory, politically-motivated and an affront to the religious community,
The activists, dubbed The Parents' Voice, also claim the Burnaby Board of Education has refused to divulge any curriculum changes that could stem from the proposal.
Draft policy 5.45 does suggest teachers embed lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) issues into existing curriculum, but "in age-appropriate ways to help students acquire the skills and knowledge to understand the impacts of homophobia and transphobia upon society."
It also calls for anti-harassment policies in each school's code of conduct, as well as learning resources, counseling and programs inclusive to the LGBTQ community.
Board chair Larry Hayes told ctvbc.ca he expects the policy to have minimal impact on the daily lives of students.
"We have been very clear on that," Hayes said. "It is more of an attitude change… if alternative lifestyles come up in regular classroom discussion then it's not something we're going to hide from."
But The Parents' Voice argues the policy would discriminate against parents, students and teachers with differing views on homosexuality.
A release from the group accuses the board of harbouring a "hidden political agenda," which "doesn't respect parental rights."
It goes on to claim that the board excluded religious leaders from the planning process, and has defied the "Charter-mandated equality rights of Canadians" in its efforts to protect gay and lesbian students.
Hayes denied any agenda, asserting that the board has only the best interests of students, particularly the victims of bullying, at heart. "If protecting students is left-leaning, then I guess we're left-leaning," he said.
He also insisted the board has heard from many different religious groups. "Bottom line: if there's a philosophical difference as to whether this policy is needed or not, we may have to agree to disagree."
The policy, if passed, would not be binding on private religious schools in the city.
The board has promised to continue gathering feedback by mail, email and at public meetings until June 3. The policy is expected to come to a vote later that month.
The Parents' Voice is holding a press conference Tuesday at the Burnaby School District's administration office, one hour before the board is set to meet. The group and a separate rally of policy supporters clashed outside a May 10th meeting, resulting in shouts and chanting.
The Burnaby school district is one of 13 in British Columbia that has either enacted or proposed anti-homophobia measures.
To read the full draft policy on homophobia/heterosexism, click here