Richmond School District marches in its first Vancouver Pride Parade

Just over a month after approving a Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity policy, also known as SOGI, representatives from the Richmond School District marched in the Vancouver Pride Parade for the first time.

While Richmond School District employees and stakeholders have marched in the parade in the past individually, this was the first time the district signed up officially.

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School board trustees Sandra Nixon, Debbie Tablotney and Ken Hamaguchi were all in attendance in Vancouver on Aug. 5, as was Liz Baverstock, president of the Richmond Teachers’ Association and Ian Hillman, president of CUPE.

“It was a really wonderful experience,” Nixon told the Richmond News, saying the turnout was really encouraging. “We really had everybody represented there.”

Nixon explained that along with the parents, staff and stakeholders that attended, some current and former students also marched.

“Some recent graduates who requested that we develop a SOGI policy, they came back, even though they’re studying in Toronto,” she said.

“It was really meaningful for them that we were able to do this...it was a sense of excitement that we could finally, officially do something visible like this, really tangible, to be able to affirm our commitment as a district to being inclusive and celebrating diversity.”

In June, after months of discussion and public consultation followed by a five-hour school board meeting, a SOGI policy aiming to create safety and acceptance for LGBTQ+ students, was passed.

Trustees in favour of the policy said it had 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.”

Meanwhile many parents opposing the policy have expressed fear that the policy will privilege LGBTQ+ groups over others and promote “gender fluidity” among children. Some accused the school board of "taking away parental rights."

“The hope with the passing of the policy was that it would help to create consistency across our schools, consistency of expectation and practice, about the kind of environment we’re trying to create, the kind of welcome that every student should expect in the school,” said Nixon, who spearheaded the creation of Richmond’s SOGI policy.

“Hopefully we’ll be seeing people feel like they can be more confident to move forward with the SOGI initiative…knowing that they’ll be supported by senior leadership in the district, by the board.”

With files from Daisy Xiong

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