B.C. Education Minister Rob Fleming has joined the growing chorus of people calling on Chilliwack school trustee Barry Neufeld to resign his post.
In recent weeks the Chilliwack School Board, Chilliwack Teachers’ Association, and Chilliwack District Parents Advisory Council have all called for Neufeld to step aside.
In a statement, Fleming said that while he doesn’t have the authority under B.C.’s School Act to dismiss an individual trustee, he has lost confidence in Neufeld and is asking him to step down.
“While individuals are entitled to their opinions, Mr. Neufeld has jeopardized student safety, divided his school community and acted against board and ministry policies,” Fleming said.
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Neufeld has come under fire for a series of public and social media comments in which he compared gender transitioning to “child abuse,” and called gender confusion a “sexual addiction.”
His comments came as B.C. schools implement SOGI 123, the province’s sexual orientation and gender identity curriculum.
SOGI 123 was developed by the the Ministry of Education, the BC Teachers’ Federation (BCTF), nine school districts and LGBTQ groups after gender identity and expression was added to B.C.’s Human Rights Code in 2016.
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Neufeld has criticized SOGI 123 as a “subtle but powerful suggestion that perhaps there is something wrong with the child. That all children should consider rejecting their own gender identity.”
In his call for Neufeld to step down Fleming rejected that characterization, and said that SOGI 123 is about creating a safe learning environment for kids, regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation.
“That’s what SOGI 123 is all about — ensuring that students are able to be fully and completely themselves without being excluded or bullied. The hurtful and offensive words and actions of Chilliwack School Trustee Barry Neufeld continue to undermine this district and ministry goal.”
Earlier this month the union representing non-teaching staff in the Chilliwack School District filed a complaint against Neufeld with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal, claiming the board “failed to provide a work environment free of discrimination.”
- With files from Jesse Ferreras