Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI)

I’ve had several questions asked recently about SOGI education, and I thought I’d take the opportunity to post about this. I’m a bit delayed in posting due to illness (the usual September sharing of germs and viruses).

First off, I support:

  • human right legislation
  • treating all people with respect
  • the SOGI curricular resources
  • school districts following the directives of the Ministry of Education
  • reducing discrimination, suicidal ideation and suicide attempts for all students
  • age appropriate student education on the fact that there is variety of sexual orientations and gender identities, as well as family structures.

Some people may not know what SOGI stands for – it’s sexual orientation and gender identity. Everyone has a sexual orientation and a gender identify. SD57 used to have a LGBTQ policy, and now has a SOGI policy. SOGI is more inclusive than LGBTQ, because everyone has a sexual orientation and a gender identity. As the SOGI website says: “Unlike the acronym LGBTQ+, SOGI is a subject or topic and not a list of specific identities. It is an inclusive term that is relevant to all individuals regardless of where they identify on the sexual orientation or gender identity spectrums, as every person has a sexual orientation and every person has a gender identity. It includes identities like lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, two-spirit, heterosexual, cisgender, and more.”

In July 2016, Bill 27- Human Rights Code Amendment Act was passed to include “gender identity or expression” among the protected grounds covered by the BC Human Rights Code. The B.C. Ministry of Education followed in September 2016 with its own directive asking that explicit references to sexual orientation and gender identity be added to the policies and codes of conduct in each school district.

On Saturday, September 29th, 2018, the Minister of Education put out a statement cosigned by BC Teachers’ Federation, BC School Superintendents Association, BC School Trustees Association, BC Principals’ and Vice-Principals’ Association, CUPE BC, BC Association of School Business Officials, Federation of Independent School Associations, BC Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils, ARC Foundation, First Nations Education Steering Committee, First Nations Schools Association and Métis Nation BC, stating that “All of B.C.’s provincial education partners for K-12 schools are committed to ensuring every school — both public and independent — is a place where students feel safe, accepted, respected and welcome regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity, race, religion or background. … As provincial education partners, we stand unified in this commitment. All of our province’s 60 school districts have now updated their codes of conduct and all independent schools have updated their harassment and bullying prevention policies that safeguard students from being bullied for their sexual orientation or gender identity.”

The Ministry of Education also has some curriculum resources that address how to deal with SOGI in a classroom, and people can freely access that information here: https://bc.sogieducation.org/sogi3/

For example, there’s a 1.5 page lesson plan for K to 12 about why saying “that’s so gay” is not OK – https://teachbcdb.bctf.ca/download/957?filename=responding-to-22thats-so-gay22.docx

There’s also a lesson plan for English Language Arts 8/9, for Examining Novels for Gender Bias: “Questioning what we hear, read, and view contributes to our ability to be educated and engaged citizens”. As and example, one of the 10 guiding questions says: “Stories and novels can be a way for society to reinforce societal norms. What societal norms are being reinforced by this novel? Examples of societal norms might include ideas such as: work hard at school, be loyal to your friends, or men should not cry. To what extent do you agree with the social norms reinforced by your novel?”

In addition to the curricular resources, there’s also examples of inclusive language give, such as ““Good morning everyone.” instead of “Good morning boys and girls.”, or “Please tell your parents or guardian.” instead of “Please tell your mom and dad.”

There have been places in the province where there has been more criticism of the SOGI policies and curricular resources – and criticism of treating all students with respect. I actually know a DPAC chair in Chilliwack who ended up having to call the RCMP due to threats she received after supporting the SOGI policy, so I have to admit to being a bit nervous about this coming up as an issue in Prince George. The situation in Chilliwack is getting rather ugly during the election campaign, it appears, although I haven’t been following it in detail.

I believe there is also a movement to encourage trustees to come out against SOGI materials. Not only do I not support that, I will point out that any decision by a board to ban SOGI 123 materials or lessons would doubtless be challenged in court, and court cases cost money – money that would taken away from student learning.

I had one gentleman contact me online, to ask what I thought of SOGI. After I responded, he said: ” I have very deep concerns about it. I am fully for a safe and inclusive atmosphere for all students at every age! I just don’t believe teachers should be teaching these things especially to young children.” I am very reassured that we’re both at the same starting point – being for a safe and inclusive for all students at every age. I think it’s important to make it very clear to all our students that our schools should always be safe for them, inclusive for them, and students should always be welcomed in our schools no matter what their sexual orientation or gender identity.

The BC School Trustee website quotes a Langley trustee on SOGI: “Just as we teach students about the existence of various religions and cultures (without encouraging or discouraging them to follow any particular religion), it is important that students be exposed (in an age appropriate manner) to the fact that there are a variety of sexual orientations and gender identities. Notwithstanding some inaccurate criticisms, as with religions and cultures, students are not encouraged or discouraged to have any particular sexual orientation or gender identity … and are certainly not encouraged to change theirs. Quite the contrary, whether focusing on religion, physical attributes, learning differences, culture or gender identity / sexual orientation, we encourage acceptance of people the way they are. This is especially important when people are not just like us.” – Trustee Rob MacFarlane, SD35 Langley

I’ve also just been asked on Twitter about in what ways will I support and encourage SOGI education in schools. I definitely support and encourage SOGI education in schools, and I think that one of the best ways to continue to do so at a board level is to continue to fund SOGI support and professional development in our schools. As a (potential) trustee, I will also seek out suggestions on how best to do this from our valued SOGI educators.

So where does this leave us?

  • If people have concerns about SOGI education, I suggest they check out the SOGI website: https://bc.sogieducation.org/ or https://www.sogieducation.org/parents
  • If people have specific concerns around specific curricular items, please let me know, and I’d be happy to discuss this, as long as the starting point is that schools should be a safe and inclusive for all students at every age
  • If people have specific requests for ways for schools to be more inclusive, please let me know

Thank you for reading.

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