Education
2 min

Langley school board won’t let opposition derail its support for LGBT students

The parents’ objections don’t ‘hold water morally or scientifically,’ says education advocate

Todd Hauptman stands by mural
Todd Hauptman, who went to high school in Langley, hopes students and teachers in the district “are way further ahead than these parents are.” Credit: Rainer Oktovianus/Xtra

A school board in a traditionally conservative community of BC says it intends to stand firm in its support of LGBT students, despite opposition from a group of angry parents.

According to a Langley Times article, about 90 parents expressed their disapproval at a May 27, 2017, school board meeting regarding a letter the district had distributed about LGBT-friendly curriculum changes.

The parents claim that supporting sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) education harms children and “creates gender dysphoria.”

“K–12 students shouldn’t be subjected to this propaganda,” one parent told the board, according to the Langley Times.

The opposition surprised the chair of Langley’s school board. “This really showed up out of the blue and I don’t know what triggered it,” Rob McFarlane tells Xtra.

“The concern seemed to be around the idea that delivering this information will influence kids to choose a different sexual orientation and that different sexual orientations are choices and that, as parents, they should be delivering that information,” McFarlane says.

But that’s simply untrue, he says, adding that educating children about sex is for their own protection.

“We are not delivering information that’s pornographic,” he says. “We’re not delivering information to make students become sexually active, but there is a balance in there because you’re not protecting them if you don’t provide them with some information so they can protect themselves.”

Xtra arranged an interview with Susan Hitchman, one of the parents who spoke at the board meeting, but she backed out without explanation.

Todd Hauptman, who graduated from Langley’s RE Mountain Secondary School 13 years ago, says he has faith that the school board trustees will continue to support LGBT students.

“I’m confident that they share my perspective and will do the right thing,” he says. “The student bodies of Langley schools and teachers are way further ahead than these parents are.”

Hauptman, who wasn’t out during high school, says he’s disappointed that this conversation is still happening in Langley. “That’s a conversation for the 1980s, not a conversation for 2017,” he contends.

“It’s disappointing to see that in Langley they still have that conversation about whether being gay is a lifestyle,” he continues. “I put that disappointment on the part of the parents and some of the people within Langley that remain conservative and can’t see the fact that queer youth are usually three times more likely to commit suicide than their counterparts.”

Long-time gay education activist James Chamberlain says the parents’ objections to the proposed curriculum aren’t founded in fact.

“This tiny group of parents, or parents that object to curricular change, usually do so through their own self-serving interests and it’s not about the good of educating every child,” alleges Chamberlain, who has been advocating for LGBT-friendly schools since the 1990s and is now the principal of a school in Vancouver.

“It doesn’t hold water morally or scientifically. It’s basically a flag of alarm that people are raising. It’s a scaremongering tactic,” he alleges. “It’s not based in reality.”

Chamberlain says Langley has done a great job in taking action to support LGBT students and that the parents should be seen as nothing other than a vocal minority.

“Langley is an example of school boards that are moving with concrete action plans to make schools better places for kids,” he says. “These reactionary factions should largely just be seen as outliers in terms of education in general.”

Chamberlain commends the school board and the Langley Teachers Association for their SOGI policy, especially considering the socially conservative nature of the region. As long as the district continues to support and affirm students, this will be a non-issue in the long run, he predicts.