10/24/2017 12:51 EDT | Updated 10/24/2017 15:05 EDT

Barry Neufeld, Chilliwack School Board Trustee, Slams B.C. Gender Inclusivity Program

"At the risk of being labelled a bigoted homophobe, I have to say that I support traditional family values."

Barry Neufeld/Facebook
Barry Neufeld has been an elected school board trustee in Chilliwack for two decades.

The B.C. Teachers' Federation is calling for a school board trustee to step down after he slammed the province's sexual orientation and gender identity curriculum as "biologically absurd."

Chilliwack School District trustee Barry Neufeld took to Facebook Monday to say B.C.'s anti-bullying curriculum has turned into a "weapon of propaganda."

"Children are being taught that heterosexual marriage is no longer the norm," Neufeld wrote. "Teachers must not refer to 'boys and girls' they are merely students."

Neufeld, who is also a church subdeacon and a prison chaplain, said he believes allowing children to choose their gender identity is "nothing short of child abuse," which aligns with the American College of Paediatricians' (ACPeds) position.

The ACPeds is a group of socially conservative U.S. health professionals, which broke off from the American Academy of Pediatrics in 2002 to protest its support of child adoption by couples. The Southern Poverty Law Center has called ACPeds an "anti-LGBT hate group."

"At the risk of being labelled a bigoted homophobe, I have to say that I support traditional family values," Neufeld said.

I belong in a country like Russia, or Paraguay, which recently had the guts to stand up to these radical cultural nihilists.Barry Neufeld, Chilliwack school board trustee

Glen Hansman, president of the B.C. Teachers' Federation, said Neufeld should resign because he has violated his obligations as a school board trustee to ensure that students and staff have a safe, inclusive environment.

"We all support this work, it's important, and we're moving forward, regardless of what a few trustees think here and there," Hansman told HuffPost Canada in an interview on Tuesday.

Neufeld also said of the provincial program: "If this represents the values of Canadian society, count me out! I belong in a country like Russia, or Paraguay, which recently had the guts to stand up to these radical cultural nihilists."

Hansman added that he's sure there would be many people "who would be willing to chip in to help him buy a ticket."

Keeping students safe 'what the vast majority' expects

If a transgender student chooses to have gender-affirming surgery, the school system is obligated under the B.C. Human Rights Code and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms "to respect that choice that children or youth have made," and to accommodate them, said Hansman.

"... and also to make sure that we're proactively taking steps to make sure that they're safe while in school. That is what the vast majority of the public expects."

B.C. education minister Rob Fleming told CBC News that when creating its anti-bullying strategy, the province "very much looked at" the harassment and fear that LGBTQ students face.

Fleming described Neufeld as an outlier, and said children need to understand what it is to have "a modern, diverse society, where people are treated with respect," according to News 1130.

Rob Fleming/Facebook
B.C. Education Minister Rob Fleming said the province took the experiences of LGBTQ students into account when crafting its anti-bullying program.

Other members of Chilliwack's school board have decried Neufeld's comments.

Chair Paul McManus and board superintendent Evelyn Novak told Global BC that Neufeld's "unfortunate" statements don't represent the board.

The B.C. School Trustees Association also distanced itself from Neufeld's stance.

"Our association strongly believes that schools need to be safe and welcoming places for ALL students, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity, race, religion or background," said a statement on Tuesday. "Any reports that in anyway indicate that this trustee speaks on behalf of BCSTA or represents the position of BCSTA are completely inaccurate."

Hansman said trustees with faith-based views need to figure out how they'll work in a secular public school system.

"If they're not ... able to keep their views in check or keep them private, then they probably shouldn't be serving as trustee or working in the education system anymore."

Few comments of support

Neufeld has been an elected board trustee for two decades in the traditionally conservative region, but said he likely won't seek re-election since he feels like he "doesn't belong."

While public officials condemned Neufeld, there was some support for him on his Facebook page.

"Thank you for standing up for truth," Stephanie Gray commented on his post.

"I am glad you can speak up. Parents need to see support from the district," Nancy Peirce wrote.

HuffPost Canada has reached out to Neufeld for comment.

With a file from The Canadian Press

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