May 3, 2018
Dear Parents and Guardians,
Given recent media coverage and an event held at the Community Centre by individuals not affiliated with our school district, I understand that there might be some questions regarding SOGI 123 and how sexual orientation and gender identity are possibly being discussed in the classroom. I am writing to provide you, district parents and guardians, with more information and to clarify some of the rhetoric that is being circulated.
In July 2016, the provincial government amended the BC Human Rights Code to include gender expression as prohibited grounds of discrimination (sexual orientation was already included in the Code). Later that same year, the Ministry of Education announced that explicit references to sexual orientations and gender identities must be included in all public and independent school districts' codes of conduct throughout the province.
The Ministry of Education has also recently implemented a redesigned curriculum, which provides educators the opportunity to teach in a more inclusive and personalized way. The content in the redesigned provincial curriculum includes a focus on valuing diversity and respecting differences, and the topics of human rights and responses to discrimination (especially in subject areas of Physical and Health Education, Social Studies, and English Language Arts). Components of the BC Human Rights Code, including sexual orientation and gender identity, may be explored within those curricular themes. The expectation of this mandated curriculum is that all students in all schools will experience the integration of inclusive education beginning in Kindergarten.
School District 72 is ensuring that the diversity that already exists within all school communities is reflected in the conversations in the classroom – there is no "SOGI curriculum" and this is not a new subject area. There is only an increasing awareness to be inclusive.
SOGI stands for sexual orientation and gender identity. It is an inclusive term that encompasses 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 heterosexual, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, two-spirit, cisgender, and more.
SOGI is a thread that can be addressed throughout many subjects and topics as it relates to human rights and responses to discrimination. School District 72 is not teaching LGBTQ2S+ topics, nor are we encouraging (or discouraging) sexual orientations or gender identities – just as we do not encourage (or discourage) one religious belief over another.
The intent is to have students, families, and staff reflected in the curriculum and school life, meaning that we are inclusive of all types of families (single parent, mixed culture, intergenerational, foster families, blended families, adopted, same sex families, etc.) and individuals (regardless of how they identify or what their sexual preferences might be). It is about respecting diversity.
SOGI 123 is a resource, developed by the ARC Foundation in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, BC Teachers' Federation, UBC Faculty of Education, nine school districts in BC, educational partners, and local, national and international LGBTQ community organizations. The BC Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils is also a supporter and collaborated on the development of SOGI 123 parent resources available on the SOGI 123 website.
SOGI 123 provides resources in three areas: 1 – policies and procedures, 2 – inclusive environments, and 3 – curriculum resources. The curriculum resources are ready to use, grade-level appropriate lesson plans that align with BC's redesigned curriculum. Teachers can customize the lesson plans to meet the needs of their classrooms.
Teachers choosing to address SOGI in the curriculum is NOT about students developing a particular set of beliefs around sexual orientation or gender identity. It is about building understanding of the diverse society that we live in and learning to treat each other with dignity and respect, regardless of our differences. The majority of school districts throughout the province use the SOGI 123 resource.
It is important to note that curriculum is provincially mandated and adherence to the BC Human Rights Code is not optional for public schools and school districts.
Sexual and reproductive health is specifically covered within the Physical and Health Education curriculum and participation in this section is optional to parents and guardians as a subject in the classroom. Other means can be chosen to address the learning standards in this particular curricular area. See https://curriculum.gov.bc.ca/curriculum/physical-health-education for more information.
Should parents have questions or concerns about something at your child's school, whether it is related to the instruction they are receiving, health and safety issues, or discipline, we encourage parents to first talk to your child's teacher and then the school principal.
For more information on SOGI 123, visit www.sogieducation.org or for information on the redesigned BC curriculum, visit https://curriculum.gov.bc.ca/.
Thomas G.S. Longridge
Superintendent of Schools, School District 72