British Columbia

Abbotsford school board permits controversial social justice elective

After months of controversy, the Abbotsford school board has decided to offer a high-school elective course that deals with issues such as sexual orientation and gender discrimination.

Students need consent from parents or guardians to take course

After months of controversy, the Abbotsford school board has decided to offer a high-school elective course that deals with issues such as sexual orientation and gender discrimination.

Social Justice 12 will be offered at the city's high schools this September, but prospective students need consent from parents or guardians to take the course, the board said in a news release on Tuesday.

"The board has approved a recommendation authorizing the course for use in the Abbotsford school district, provided that parents/guardians give their consent," the news release says.

"Due to the sensitive nature of some of the course content, the board believes that parents/guardians should make an informed decision about whether or not students enroll in the course."

Social Justice 12 was added as an elective to the B.C. high school curriculum as part of a settlement in 2006 between the Education Ministry and a gay couple, Murray and Peter Corren. The couple had lodged a human rights complaint that said the province's public schools failed to include information about gays in curricula, and the lack of such representation amounted to systemic discrimination.

The social justice course was launched as a pilot program in September 2007 and then added to the provincial high-school curriculum in 2008.

The course was pulled from an Abbotsford high school last September after the Abbotsford district received complaints from parents who felt the material conflicted with their family values.

Correns launch second complaint

That prompted another human rights complaint by the Correns, accusing the board of discrimination, followed by a loud rally by gay activists and students last December.

"While there has been a perception that the Abbotsford board prohibited access to the Social Justice 12 elective course, in fact, no such decision was made," the board said Tuesday in its news release.

Abbotsford school superintendent Julie McRae told CBC News the decision to go ahead with the course was made Monday night.

"Now we intend to offer it in our schools in September 2009, just like many other school districts across the province," McRae said.

"In the interests of making sure our local parents are informed about the content of the course, our board is requiring parental consent."

The Abbotsford school board is still facing the human rights complaint filed by the Correns.

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