Trans-friendly curriculum is 'biologically absurd': school trustee
A school curriculum designed to discourage bullying and educate children about gender identity issues is being blasted as the product of "radical cultural nihilists" by a trustee in B.C.'s Fraser Valley.
Barry Neufeld, who has been on Chilliwack's Board of Education for 25 years, shared some harsh words for the province's Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity curriculum on his Facebook page Monday morning, describing its teachings as "biologically absurd."
"At the risk of being labelled a bigoted homophobe, I have to say that I support traditional family values and I agree with the College of paediatricians that allowing little children choose to change gender is nothing short of child abuse (sic)," Neufeld wrote.
It's unclear which specific part of the curriculum he's referring to, but the lesson plans do recognize the right of students to self-identify their gender and be addressed by their preferred gender pronoun – a standard that is in line with the protections offered under B.C.'s Human Rights Code.
That section of Neufeld's post appears to reference a claim that was debunked last year by Snopes.com. The website found that while the American College of Pediatricians did issue a statement that teaching children transgender people are normal and healthy amounts to "child abuse," the organization is a politically motivated fringe group and most pediatricians do not agree with its views on gender identity.
Neufeld, who is also a volunteer chaplain and former church subdeacon, took issue with a number of other parts of the curriculum, including what he claims is a ban on referring to students' "mothers and fathers" in case any of them come from same-sex homes.
"If this represents the values of Canadian society, count me out! I belong in a country like Russia, or Paraguay, which recently had the guts to stand up to these radical cultural nihilists," he wrote.
Education Minister Rob Fleming responded to Neufeld's criticism Monday afternoon by defending the curriculum, which was developed as part of the ongoing Erase Bullying strategy in the province.
While some trustees' opinions may differ, Fleming said there is a broad consensus that anti-trans bullying needs to be addressed in schools.
"We're in the fifth year of our Erase Bullying strategy that very much looked at some of the harassment and fear that gay and lesbian students, and transgender students in particular, have experienced in our school system. There was a consensus to eliminate that," Fleming said.
Reaction to Neufeld's post was split on social media, with some parents praising the trustee for his candor and others accusing the school official of subscribing to "pseudo-science."
"And when will you be leaving for Russia or Paraguay?" wrote fellow chaplain Richard Rene.