Top Five in 2017: SOGI ignited a battle between parents

A conservative group faced a backlash from Langley parents.

Langley was the flashpoint in a battle over education in B.C., as pro- and anti-SOGI activists staged rallies and meetings in 2017.

Longtime conservative activist Kari Simpson held a late-August meeting in Langley to oppose SOGI 123, which stands for Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity. She also spoke to the school board several times over the course of the year.

The SOGI 123 package was created as a resource for B.C. teachers to deal with questions and issues that can come up at any grade level. But Simpson and her Parents United Canada group suggested it was a “political cult.”

They tried to call on both the local school board and the provincial government scrap the program.

The poster for the August event misrepresented parts of SOGI 123, claiming it would force young children to declare their gender identity.

While school district officials like board chair Rob McFarlane defended SOGI, it was local parents who organized a counter-protest against Parents United Canada.

Walnut Grove’s Stacey Wakelin learned about Simpson’s opposition to SOGI and by September, had launched Langley Parents for Inclusivity.

“We stand together to speak out for love, acceptance, safety and inclusivity for all students in our schools,” Wakelin told the Langley Advance in September. “We are not here to fight. We are here to support and educate. Our focus remains on inclusive education and support for families in our community.”

Among the early supporters of the effort was Brad Dirks, whose transgender son attends school in Langley.

“It’s for all students to feel comfortable and safe and secure,” Dirks said of SOGI 123.

At the first school board meeting in September, about 150 people in support of the program rallied outside the district offices, while those asking to speak against it withdrew from the agenda.

Education Minister Rob Fleming weighed in with a letter to the editor in favour of SOGI 123.

WHAT’S NEXT?

• The letters page has become a battleground for those in favour of and opposed to SOGI

• PUC and Langley Parents for Inclusivity continue organizing through social media

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