All 60 B.C. school districts and several independent schools have joined the B.C. SOGI Educator Network to further help educators make schools safe and inclusive for students of all sexual orientations and gender identities (SOGI).
Education and community partners gathered at Jim Deva Plaza in Vancouver’s West End for the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. They were there to celebrate the positive impacts of SOGI-inclusive education and strengthen their commitment to making sure schools are welcoming environments for all students.
“SOGI-inclusive education helps save lives, by respecting and honouring the differences of each student, in schools that are free of discrimination, bullying, harassment, intimidation and violence,” said Rob Fleming, Minister of Education. “No student should be excluded or bullied because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, which is why we and our partners share a belief in the power of SOGI 123. It is creating awareness, affirming human rights and helping to fight discrimination in B.C. schools.”
The B.C. SOGI Educator Network brings together B.C. educators interested in SOGI-inclusive education and enables them to meet, share resources and co-design programs.
At the event, representatives of B.C.’s K-12 education partner groups formed a new Provincial K-12 SOGI Collaborative, with a shared goal of supporting students of all sexual orientations, gender identities and expressions. The collaborative will outline a plan for the next three years to create learning environments that are safe, acceptable, respectful and welcoming for all B.C. students.
“ARC Foundation’s long-term goal is that youth are safe and comfortable enough to live their authentic lives, without fear of bullying, intimidation, discrimination or rejection,” said Brad Beattie, executive director of the ARC Foundation, which has been a lead partner in the creation of SOGI 123. “Our collective efforts to develop SOGI 123 are building bridges between provincial institutions and associations so that more effective, sustainable and accelerated change toward that goal can happen.”
Members of the collaborative will identify, support and provide advice on a variety of projects that will help facilitate SOGI-inclusive education and policies in B.C. schools. The group will support the development of new SOGI resources, will offer professional development and training opportunities to administrators, educators, trustees and parents, and will facilitate information sharing on best practices between schools and school districts for the benefit of all B.C. students.
“All youth, no matter who they are or how they identify, should be able to be themselves at school,” said Glen Hansman, president of the B.C. Teachers' Federation (BCTF), which is one of the member groups of the new Provincial K-12 SOGI Collaborative. “And that also applies to staff who work in our schools. LGTBQ youth and their families, as well as queer parents and staff, should all feel welcome, represented and included in our school communities. With all 60 school districts now participating in SOGI 123, our province has achieved a real milestone in inclusion. British Columbians should be very proud. The BCTF will continue working with the government to ensure policies are enforced, staff get the education and training they need, and queer youth get access to the supports and resources they need no matter where they live in B.C.”
SOGI 123 is a resource that provides schools and teachers with ready-to-use, grade-level appropriate materials that align with B.C.’s new curriculum. It was developed by the ARC Foundation in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, BCTF, and other provincial K-12 education partners, the University of British Columbia’s faculty of education, school districts and local, national and international LGBTQ community organizations.
Tru Wilson, 16, Delta Secondary student —
“No child should grow up thinking they’re alone, the only one. All students should feel safe, see themselves in the world around them and be free to live their best possible life. SOGI 123 helps make this happen.”
Spencer Chandra Herbert, MLA for Vancouver-West End —
“SOGI 123 is making a huge difference in our province, and while there are forces still intent to divide, abuse, and harm LGBT youth, we are winning. I’m proud that our government, in partnership with key education and community partners is committing to going even further to create safe, inclusive spaces for the benefit of all students.”
Shawn Chisholm, executive director, Federation of Independent School Associations in B.C. (FISA BC) —
“FISA BC is proud to stand in unity with the other B.C. education partner groups and the Ministry of Education to reinforce our commitment to provide safe and respectful learning environments where all students have an opportunity to flourish. All B.C. students deserve to attend a school where they are cared for and do not feel marginalized due to their sexual orientation, gender identity, race, religious beliefs or background. FISA commits to continue to work with our friends within the SOGI collaborative and with our member schools to support priorities that honour the uniqueness and diversity that exists within our student populations, our public and independent schools and our pluralistic society.”
SOGI 123: www.sogieducation.org
ARC Foundation: www.arcfoundation.ca
ERASE – expect respect and a safe education: www.erase.gov.bc.ca
Minister and K-12 education partners’ statement on support for SOGI, Sept. 29, 2018: https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2018EDUC0058-001893
A backgrounder follows.