A final draft of the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) policy, a policy that aims to create safety and acceptance for LGBTQ+ students, was passed by the Richmond Board of Education in a 6-1 decision after an intense, five-hour discussion Wednesday night.
Police appeared on the scene towards the end of the meeting when some trustees couldn't speak due to the insistent and aggressive heckling by people opposed to the policy.
The gym of Burnett secondary school was fully occupied with more than 600 people attending the school board’s meeting. Almost 90 people with differing views spoke to trustees about the policy, and all speakers were applauded loudly by their supporters during or at the end of each presentation.
At the end of the meeting, Trustee Sandra Nixon moved a motion to pass the final draft of SOGI, which was seconded by Trustee Donna Sargent and voted for by all trustees except Jonathan Ho.
Trustees voting for it said this policy has been created in consultation with parents, students, staff and the community and will foster awareness and understanding “so that some of the most vulnerable students can attend school without fear.”
Ho, however, said more time is needed for more consultations on SOGI given how many parents expressed their concerns. He proposed to defer the vote to September but was only supported by Trustees Alice Wong and Eric Yung.
Many speakers, including some from the LGBTQ community, told stories of their own or of people they know who have been bullied or harassed at school for their sexual orientation. They said the SOGI policy is urgently needed in Richmond.
A representative from Vancouver Coastal Health also stated that evidence shows people from the LGBTQ community do not enjoy the same health outcomes as others and a policy like this does mean better outcomes for them.
Meanwhile, many parents opposing the policy fear that it will privilege LGBTQ+ groups over others and promote “gender fluidity” among children, and even “ teach students to cut off their body parts.” Some accused the school board of "taking away parental rights."
Sargent said parts of the community have been given misinformation about the policy and she feels “very sad” to see that.
“SOGI is not a curriculum; it’s not something teachers will be teaching. It’s not a document from the Ministry of Education that says ‘this is what the curriculum shall say and this is what teachers will teach,'" said Sargent.
This is a way to make sure that all schools are a safe and caring environment for all students including LGBTQ students, she added.
Her speaking was interrupted multiple times by angry audience members who started leaving the meeting. The crowd calmed down after two policemen appeared on the site.
Just before the public hearing, around 100 people protested outside of Burnett against the policy, led by Vancouver advocates, with a slogan “Stop oppressive gender indoctrination.”