New sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) funding will help expand the annual provincial SOGI Education Summit, with a focus on increasing the participation of youth, parents and Indigenous partners.
“By committing to improving SOGI-inclusive education in B.C. schools, we are helping students understand and respect their differences, something that will serve them today and in the future,” said Rob Fleming, Minister of Education. “We are continuing to work with students and our education partners to create learning environments that are safe, acceptable, respectful and welcoming for all.”
The new funding of $350,000 will be used in part to enhance the SOGI Education Summit, presented by the ministry and the ARC Foundation, which has been a lead partner in the creation of the SOGI 123 curriculum resource. Held for the last two years, the summit brings together representatives of school districts and independent schools that are participating in the B.C. SOGI Educator Network. The event provides an opportunity for SOGI leads to learn about new approaches and resources, share successes and challenges, and provide input to help inform provincial initiatives.
At this year’s summit, being held in Richmond in October, student voices and Indigenous perspectives will be integrated with the priority focus areas identified by the new Provincial K-12 SOGI Collaborative. With increased participation from youth, parents and Indigenous partners, this year’s summit will help to identify issues and opportunities that can inform priority actions for student voice and Indigenous SOGI supports for the next couple of years.
“We’re incredibly pleased to be growing our partnership with the Ministry of Education in such a meaningful way, and are grateful to Minister Fleming for his leadership,” said Brad Beattie, executive director of the ARC Foundation. “This new funding will allow us to continue to work with school districts, education partners and community organizations around the province to ensure that B.C. schools are inclusive places where all students are free to live their best possible lives.”
The new funding is also being used for a provincial SOGI education lead position to provide training, resources and supports to school districts and independent schools. As well, the funding will support the development of provincial guidelines for SOGI-inclusive education in B.C. K-12 schools and provide facilitation and secretariat support for the Provincial K-12 SOGI Collaborative.
“I believe in SOGI-inclusive communities because it’s vital for young people to be free from discrimination and bullying,” said Mitzi Dean, Parliamentary Secretary for Gender Equity. “All students deserve to feel welcomed, included and respected in a safe learning environment, and our government is happy to collaborate on all levels to prioritize the mental health and safety of B.C.’s students.”
In May, the ministry announced that all 60 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. The ministry also announced that the Province and 11 education and community partner groups have formed a new Provincial K-12 SOGI Collaborative, officially committing to creating learning environments that are safe, acceptable, respectful and welcoming for all B.C. students.
Cole Sheehan-Klassen, Grade 11 student, Burnaby South Secondary and the Youth Hub —
“As LGBTQ+ youth, we face unaccepting situations more than most. The SOGI work in schools helps all of us, no matter how we identify, to understand each other more. We are all much more than just one piece of our identity.”
Gary Wong, chair, Burnaby School District Board of Education —
“We’re proud to be a leader in creating inclusive, welcoming environments in our schools. The ministry’s expansion in provincial funding helps to sustain this valuable work. When students feel supported, respected and safe, they are more engaged in learning.”
Teri Mooring, president, British Columbia Teachers’ Federation —
“B.C. teachers are proud to continue our efforts to support SOGI initiatives in our schools and communities. Ensuring our classrooms are safe and inclusive for all students, no matter who they are, where they come from or how they identify, is a priority for all of us. It’s great to see all the education partner groups continue this important work, and I am especially pleased to see a focus on including Indigenous perspectives in the work we are all doing around SOGI.”
Shawn Chisholm, executive director, Federation of Independent School Associations in B.C. (FISA) —
“The SOGI Collaborative continues to be relevant as it brings together, and gives a voice to, a diverse group of education leaders/stakeholders from both the public and independent school sectors. The Ministry of Education and the ARC Foundation’s commitment to the collaborative’s work in support of creating school environments where no student feels marginalized due to their sexual orientation, gender identity, race, culture or religious beliefs enhances the school experience for all students within the B.C. K-12 education system. FISA is pleased to work alongside the other B.C. education partners and the Ministry of Education to ensure that all students feel safe, welcomed and respected in any B.C. school setting.”
Andrea Sinclair, president, BC Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils —
"As the education partner representing parents within the K-12 SOGI Collaborative, we are proud to be able to continue our strong support for and active engagement in this important work. Together we have made great strides forward, but more work is needed to ensure all students, in public and independent schools, feel safe, supported and included, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity."
Stephanie Higginson, president of the British Columbia School Trustees Association —
“We know all children learn best when they feel safe and see themselves reflected in their learning. The British Columbia School Trustees Association is committed to ensuring every child learns in a welcoming, inclusive environment. We’re proud to support the expansion of SOGI and we commend Minister Fleming for his continued backing of this essential program.”
SOGI 123: www.sogieducation.org
ARC Foundation: www.arcfoundation.ca
Erase (expect respect and a safe education): www.erase.gov.bc.caA backgrounder follows.
More students supported by SOGI-inclusive education (May 17, 2019, news release): https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2019EDUC0040-000975
A backgrounder follows.