CHILLIWACK, B.C. — A British Columbia school trustee has apologized for saying in a Facebook post that provincial education policies aimed at supporting LGBTQ students amount to child abuse.
Chilliwack School District trustee Barry Neufeld says in a statement that he believes in a safe learning environment but educational resources should be reviewed by parents and teachers before they're implemented.
Neufeld says he's critical of a resource, not individuals, and that he apologizes to those who felt hurt by his opinion.
The Chilliwack School District also issued a statement saying Neufeld's opinion doesn't reflect the views of the Chilliwack Board of Education.
It says the board approved changes to its Safe Schools Policy last October in keeping with the B.C. Human Rights Code so all students are free of harassment, including those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer.
Neufeld acknowledged in his statement that his recent Facebook post created a lot of controversy.
"Those who have worked with me for over 24 years know that I do believe in inclusion and a safe learning environment for all of our students. They should be protected from all forms of bullying and intimidation."
However, a free and democratic society should have room for respectful discussion and dissent, he said.
In his Facebook post, Neufeld said the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity program instructs children that gender is not biologically determined, but is a social construct.
The elected trustee, who has served for two decades, said he believes the program encourages children to question their biological gender and consider gender transition.
"Throwing that out there for Grade 4 children to consider, to me, that is not wise and it infringes on the rights of parents to make these decisions," he said in an interview on Tuesday.
The website for the initiative says it was created by educators and leaders from across Western Canada and "equips educators of all backgrounds and experiences with tools and resources for supporting marginalized LGBTQ students."
The program already has provincewide participation in British Columbia, and the site says a new partnership was recently reached with Alberta. National expansion is the next goal.
Neufeld says parts of the initiative are good and should be implemented but he wondered why it couldn't be included in an after-school program that interested students could join if they wished.