What is SOGI or SOGI 123?
First of all SOGI and SOGI 123 are two different things. Often times these terms are referenced incorrectly when speaking about SOGI 123.
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 123 is a resource to assist in helping school districts and educators to build inclusive environments for students of all sexual orientations and gender identities.
SOGI 123 was developed by the ARC Foundation in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, BC Teachers’ Federation, UBC Faculty of Education, nine school districts in the province, educational partners, and local, national and international LGBTQ community organizations.
SOGI 123 provides resources in three areas: 1 – policies and procedures, 2 – inclusive environments, and 3 – curriculum resources.
Is there a sexual orientation and gender identity curriculum or subject area?
There is no separate and distinct SOGI curriculum or subject area. Sexual orientation and gender identity, as they relate to the BC Human Rights Code, may be interwoven through several curricular areas, most notably physical and health education, language arts and social studies. How the topics are introduced to students is dependent on the age and stage of their development. These topics may also be discussed as they arise in the daily lives of students. SOGI 123 are resources that teachers can use within these other curricular areas.
What prompted SOGI 123? Why are topics of sexual orientation and gender identity even being discussed in schools now?
In July 2016, the provincial government amended the BC Human Rights Code to include gender expression as prohibited grounds of discrimination (sexual orientation was added earlier to the Code). In September 2016, the Ministry of Education announced that explicit references to sexual orientations and gender identities must be included in all public and independent school district’s codes of conduct.
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.
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. The use of SOGI 123 resources is at the discretion of individual districts, however it was developed and approved by the Ministry of Education and BC Teachers’ Federation so it is the most readily available resource that is compliant with the BC Human Rights Code. SOGI 123 is also supported by several other professional organizations and associations, including the BC Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils and the majority of school districts in the province (51 out of 60 as of May 2018) use SOGI 123.
Do teachers have to use SOGI 123? Is it mandated?
Teachers are required to cover the curriculum and teach to the learning outcomes of each subject area. However, teachers have a degree of discretion over which approved resources they use. The SD72 Board of Education and the BC Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils supports the use of SOGI 123.
Why can’t you just teach about bullying instead of talking about sexual orientation and gender identity?
It is important that all students feel safe and welcomed in public schools. In order to do that, it is important that everyone has the opportunity to learn about each other and respect each other’s differences. Sadly, children can learn homophobic and transphobic slurs as young as elementary school ages.
Nineteen percent of BC high school students identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or not exclusively heterosexual. One percent of high school students identify as transgender and five percent of Aboriginal students identify as two-spirit. The reality is that this diversity already exists within schools and our communities – there is just an increasing awareness to be inclusive and to have students, families and staff reflected in the curriculum and school life.
Are discussions about sex or sexual practices taking place in elementary classrooms?
No, sexuality as a concept is discussed starting in grade 4 (with the onset of puberty) but does not include discussions about sexual acts or practices. Secondary students do receive accurate information about relationships and safe sex.
Won’t talking about sexual orientation and gender identity confuse children/youth?
Information and discussion will not make anyone a certain sexual orientation or gender identity. These are not “lifestyle choices”. As students grow older, some will identify as straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. All of our students need to feel safe, welcome and positively reflected in their schools.
Are schools teaching or encouraging kids to identify as transgender or become homosexual?
Absolutely not. School District 72 is not “teaching” LGBTQ2S+ topics, nor are we “encouraging” (or discouraging), or “glorifying” sexual orientations or gender identities. 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 and individuals, regardless of how they identify or what their sexual preference might be. We are respecting diversity.
Teachers addressing 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.
Aren’t you disrespecting parent rights and religious freedoms by introducing these topics?
Parents are always the most important teacher in a child’s life and we respect parental rights to establish their own family values and religious beliefs. However, it is the responsibility and role of public education to be inclusive and reflective of all members of the society we serve.
Are students being told not to use “boy” or “girl” to describe themselves?
No, students have never been told this. They are being introduced to the idea that not everyone may identify with these pronouns and teachers have been asked to think about using more inclusive strategies for grouping students or speaking collectively about a class. For example, instead of saying “good morning boys and girls” a teacher may use a phrase such as “good morning students”. This allows for all students to feel included regardless of their gender identity.
Are students being told not to call their parents “mom” or “dad”? Is this part of why the school district addresses letters to parents and guardians?
No, students have never been told this. Students are made aware of the fact that families can be diverse. Some students have single parent families, foster families, blended families, adopted families, same sex families, etc. The school district has for years addressed letters to parents and guardians to be respectful of the diversity of families that exist within our district.
Why is School District 72 working on including sexual orientation and gender identity in schools?
The work that is being done in the district is not unique to School District 72, it is provincial. There is nothing overly new about this; a new subject area is not being introduced. Teachers have been teaching about diversity, discrimination and the need for respect for years, but there is an increasing awareness to be inclusive.
Why weren’t parents consulted before this was introduced?
Provincially, parents were consulted as part of the development process. Also, the BC Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils is a supporter and collaborated on the development of SOGI 123 parent resources available on the SOGI 123 website.
Can parents “opt-out” their children out of topics related to sexuality, sexual orientation and gender orientation?
The Provincial Government has allowed for some flexibility in the delivery of topics related to sexual and reproductive health within the Physical and Health Education curriculum. Participation in this section is optional to parents and guardians as a subject in the classroom and other means can be chosen to address the learning standards in this particular curricular area. However, this does not include topics related to sexual orientation and gender identity, unless they relate to reproduction and sexuality. See https://curriculum.gov.bc.ca/curriculum/physical-health-education for more information.
I have concerns about what is being discussed in my child’s classroom. Who should I talk to?
The best place to start is always with your child’s teacher. As with all areas of the curriculum, the classroom teacher is the most knowledgeable about the subjects being taught in individual classes. The school principal can also be an excellent source of information.