A series of concerns and questions regarding LGBTQ topics came under the spotlight during the December 18 board meeting of the South East Cornerstone Public School Division.
Bobbie Jo Graham raised the questions of diversity to the board members during their afternoon open business session in the division’s head office in Weyburn.
Following her 20 minute presentation, Graham distributed information portfolios to the board members that illustrated the issues she raised.
Eleven residents from the Stoughton area provided a gallery of onlookers and three members of the Cornerstone student services administration team also took in the presentation along with the board members and the regular administration team around the conference table.
Some of the concerns expressed had arisen from members of the Stoughton community in the past, therefore creating the additional interest from that group that listened quietly and attentively to Graham’s presentation, as did the board members.
Graham expressed that a 2015 booklet provided by the provincial government, Deepening the Discussion: Gender and Sexual Diversity, appears to be divisive and gender privileged from her perspective. She went on to say that gender changes are not to be assumed by teachers and confidentiality issues arise as a result. She added that such issues as gender neutral bathrooms and change rooms add to the problem.
“Sometimes if a student is identified as a LGBQT member, often the parents don’t know it yet school administration will know. So where are the rights of the parents? They have a right to know what is going on,” she said. “There is an inherent right to expect transparency within the school that is integrated with gender diversity and I understand that this education begins in Grade 1,” Graham added. “If you don’t want your child to be exposed, it seems the only option is to remove them from the school.”
Graham went on to suggest the Pride movement had moved on from being inclusive to now being much more provocative and sexually explicit. She used an example of various Pride parades that promoted that base “behind the equality façade.” Graham said young children are now being exposed to this reality and Pride may be destroying boundaries while educators with hours of training in sexual diversity need to be sure the information they impart is unbiased and neutral while being taught.
“This is not a black and white topic. Not all information is correct and professionals don’t always agree,” Graham said, adding that for instance a sex assigned at birth may change once the person becomes an adult or it may change while the person is maturing. Add to that issues such as suicide scares and bullying that are still increasing, only adds to the problems as the LGBQT members suffer while dealing with underlying issues.
Graham questioned government responses as sometimes being desensitizing or confusing and asked then, “are teachers taking over mental health training? All sides should be taught about transgender and transitioning and drugs used and their side effects. It’s more than just painting a cross-walk or flying a flag.”
Graham said that pedophilia also comes into the discussion as an issue that raises even more abuse as neither abuser or victim are usually willing to come forward and in recent times, pedophiles have been taking steps to “normalize” their actions since they state they cannot help being who they are.
Graham said she had several questions for consideration by the school division.
Graham asked “Are LGBQT issues more important than religious classes? What about racists, bigots, intolerance? I’m just asking questions?”
She said the Canadian flag was removed from the Stoughton School twice in favour of a Pride flag. What are the proper responses? She said she feared a war being waged among professionals regarding Pride issues as being a matter of choice in schools and teaching sexual diversity is being mandated.
“I feel this needs to be treated with kindness and understanding, just don’t do it under the Pride umbrella,” Graham said. “We’re not bigots, we’re just asking questions.”
Graham was thanked by Cornerstone board chairwoman Audrey Trombley who advised the group of SECPSD’s vision statement of success and achievement for every child in every school and that all students need to flourish “in a safe and welcoming environment to achieve personal growth, learn social skills while understanding differences.”
Trombley went on to say, “we have 8,300 unique children in our schools and we are here to meet their needs.
“While we respect the religious rights of parents and students those rights do not trump human rights of children in our system. We are supported by the Education Ministry and we don’t promote any sexuality or genders. We promote a safe and caring, welcoming and embracing environment for all. You have raised interesting perspectives and questions,” said Trombley who assured Graham she would receive a Cornerstone response in writing within an acceptable time line.
Following the presentation and distribution of the portfolios, Graham thanked the board for their attention and she left the conference room, as did the other people in the gallery who were thanked by board members before returning to complete their afternoon business agenda.