A Central Okanagan incumbent school trustee has pulled back her endorsement of the SOGI 123 program adopted by the school board earlier this year.
On the Canadian Council for Faith and Family Facebook page, Kelowna trustee candidate Lee-Anne Tiede made a social media statement clarifying her position in the wake of comments calling into question her stance on the issue.
In her statement, Tiede said the board’s decision in May has weighed heavy on her heart, saying while she is in favour of inclusiveness, anti-bullying and safe environment school initiatives for all children, the dialogue around SOGI 123 “has caused us to lose focus on doing the business of school and created a tremendous division in our communities under the banner of ‘inclusiveness.’”
SOGI 123 is a provincial-mandated education program comprised of resource materials that address race, ethnicity, religion and ability issues that lead to potential bullying, but what has upset many parents is the resource material approach to sexual orientation and gender identity.
Tiede cited the irony of people speaking up against SOGI 123 being subjected to death threats, lawsuits and online harassment for what is supposed to be an anti-bullying message.
“It would have been my preference to work through the following points by having them brought up at the front end of this discussion with our staff and board, but we were responding to the information the day, as it was presented,” Tiede stated.
“School trustees seem to have forgotten that we do not represent the Ministry of Education, but rather—we represent the community. It is the collective voice of the community members that we speak on behalf of, and that voice is undeniably getting louder and louder in opposition of SOGI 123. “
Tiede says issues related to the school inclusiveness resource initiative she would like addressed include how and by whom were the SOGI 123 program resource materials vetted, the need for assessment of that material by unbiased, qualified professionals, input from religious groups and health care professionals on how the program is implemented, and greater consideration of the potential policy fallout.
Fellow Kelowna trustee incumbent Rolli Cacchioni was also mentioned on the Facebook page as supporting the faith council’s opposition to SOGI 123, but he says he “has no idea where that came from.”
Cacchioni said the SOGI 123 was adopted by the ministry of education as mandated provincewide policy.
“As a school trustee, we are obliged to follow provincial direction on mandated programs,” said Cacchioni, a former teacher and school principal.
“Like the new Grade 10 curriculum, there are things about it I like and don’t like, but it is mandated program. (SOGI 123) is also a mandate program to help support teachers in the schools. I have a total level of confidence that these resource materials will be handled properly and have been well thought out in advance.”
He added as a teacher and principal, it was his mandate to ensure every student who walks through his school doors felt safe and was dealt with in a judicious and respectful manner, a philosophy he continues to embrace as a school trustee.
“It does happen where the vulnerable sometimes can be picked on but we do the best we can for every student in the school district.”
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