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Correns’ complaint against Abbotsford gets green light

Tribunal rejects school board's attempt to dismiss Social Justice 12 case

A gay couple’s human rights complaint against the Abbotsford School Board will go ahead despite the board’s attempt to dismiss it.

Murray and the late Peter Corren filed the complaint against the school board last year after it ordered one of its high schools to drop Social Justice 12. WJ Mouat was the only secondary school in the district to offer the gay-friendly course. Ninety students had signed up.

The Correns filed the complaint on behalf of the students and parents of Abbotsford School District “and in particular gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered students and parents.”

The Correns allege that the district’s decision to pull the course constitutes discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, which is contrary to the Human Rights Code.

Not only was the decision to pull the course discriminatory, they argue, but the board’s decision to require parental consent for students to take it after its reinstatement was also discriminatory.

The school board denies any discrimination in the matter and tried to get the complaint dismissed on a number of grounds.

Among other things, the board argued to the Human Rights Tribunal, the Correns are ineligible to file the complaint.

The Correns are neither parents nor students in the district and have no personal interest in the matter, the board contended.

The Human Rights Tribunal rejected this argument on Feb 4, saying the Correns have an interest in the case because they helped develop Social Justice 12.

Moreover, the couple do not have to be members of the group named in the complaint filed in order to get a hearing, the tribunal ruled.

As for the school board’s contention that the complaint be dismissed outright because no discrimination took place, the tribunal ruled that a hearing is required to weigh the competing evidence on that point.

The school board also asked the tribunal to dismiss the complaint because the group of students and parents the Correns claim to represent is too broad.

The tribunal sided with the school board on this point but still refused to dismiss the complaint.

Instead, tribunal member Tonie Beharrell gave the Correns until Mar 19 to narrow the class of people they claim to represent in their complaint.

The tribunal will schedule a pre-hearing conference after the Correns file the amended complaint.