The Kelowna Atheists, Skeptics and Humanists Association (KASHA) has become concerned with the misinformation being spread regarding the inclusion of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) policies and education in BC schools.
The decision by school districts to utilize SOGI 123, a collection of tools and resources for educators, resulted from the BC Ministry of Education’s efforts to ensure compliance with recent changes to provincial human rights legislation regarding gender identity. SOGI education seeks to address the well-documented discrimination that youngsters identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender face through a series of lessons and classroom activities as well as policies and codes of conduct. SOGI 123 lessons do not promote a particular lifestyle but simply inform students on the diversity of sexual orientation and gender identity which exists in the world and the responsibility of each individual to respect the rights and dignity of others regardless of whether or not it conflicts with their personal world view. This kind education is merely an extension of school policies and practices that have existed for many years. What SOGI 123 is not is sex education which is already addressed through existing curricula. Despite the obviously desirable goal of protecting students from discrimination in the classroom this effort has received significant push back from some parents groups.
A number of parents have expressed their concern that SOGI 123 interferes with parental rights however they offer little evidence. There is nothing in SOGI 123 that prevents parents from instilling their children with their values, whether in the home or through community activities and organizations. What we have seen is that instead of trying to prepare their children for the diversity of our modern world they appear more concerned with trying to shield them from a reality they find objectionable. They have embarked on a campaign of misinformation and inflamed rhetoric accusing the ministry and teachers of trying to impose a political agenda on students. Most outrageously, some have characterized SOGI 123 as a thinly-veiled attempt to indoctrinate and seduce children into a life of homosexuality and transgenderism.
We should not be surprised that the current rapid pace of social change, particularly with regard to SOGI issues, has caused people to fear that their way of life is being undermined. Self-appointed guardians of public morality are not a new phenomenon and we have witnessed these kinds of attacks before during similar periods of social upheaval. Dire warnings accompanied rock and roll, the legalization of homosexuality and same-sex marriage, and the allowing of certain religious and racial groups in to Canada. This very human fear of change however, should not excuse the dishonest tactics that opponents of SOGI 123 are using. Public policy should not be driven by fear and ignorance but by a sober assessment of the evidence. Everything that we have seen indicates that the Ministry of Education is doing just that with respect to SOGI education.
KASHA supports the efforts of school districts to educate youth on SOGI issues and create a non-discriminatory educational environment and we call on opponents to drop the inflammatory and dishonest rhetoric and work with the ministry to protect the educational environment for all students.
David Robinson, Zena Ryder, Nina George, Daniel Mallett, Ellen Nilson, Darrel Lewis
Kelowna Atheists, Skeptics and Humanists Association Board