Chilliwack teachers call for school board to speak out against controversial trustee

The Chilliwack Teachers' Association is calling on its school board to officially denounce controversial comments made by trustee Barry Neufeld last fall.

Local union has filed a human rights complaint against Neufeld and the school board

School trustee Barry Neufeld set off a firestorm of controversy after posting a Facebook message that called B.C. educators 'radical cultural nihilists' for gender policies in schools. (Chilliwack School Board)

The Chilliwack Teachers' Association is calling on its school board to officially denounce controversial comments about transgender children made by trustee Barry Neufeld last fall. 

On Tuesday, the association passed a motion of non-confidence against the Chilliwack School Board. CTA president Lee-Anne Clarke said the board hasn't done enough to speak out against Neufeld's comments.

Clarke said the association's members have become increasingly frustrated about "growing anti-LGBTQ sentiments" in the community.

"Teachers in Chilliwack are highly skilled professionals who want to create safe and inclusive environments in their classrooms," Clarke said.

Last October, Chilliwack school trustee Barry Neufeld faced widespread criticism after denouncing members of B.C.'s education system as "radical cultural nihilists" in a Facebook post for their policies on gender rights and education. 

Neufeld wrote that "letting little children choose to change gender is nothing short of child abuse."

'We have to be accepting of difference'

The school board has yet to speak out against Neufeld, saying instead that his comments don't reflect the board's views.

"We felt that the school board trustees had not done enough to ensure the safety of our classrooms and of our workplaces," Clarke said.

She said Neufeld's comments contradict the province's Sexual Orientation Gender Identity program as well as B.C.'s human rights code on gender identity and expression.

"We are a diverse community with lots of different people out here, and we want to make sure that everyone has a place and is welcome in our community and in our schools," Clarke said.

"In order to do that we have to be accepting of difference."

'Dragging on for long enough'

CBC News reached out to the Chilliwack School Board on Thursday.

Board chair Paul McManus said the board would be discussing the motion at an in-camera meeting and he wouldn't be able to comment until after it has taken place.

The teacher's association is calling on the Ministry of Education to intervene. Clarke said, at the very least, the board should be compelled to denounce Neufeld's comments. 

B.C. Teachers Federation president Glen Hansman said he supports the association's motion. 

"This has been dragging on for long enough," Hansman said.

"It is not acceptable in 2018 for someone in a public school trustee role to be making those kinds of pronouncements."

Hansman said Neufeld should step down as trustee — there are no provisions in the School Act to force him out of the role. 

On Monday, the union that supports education support workers in Chilliwack, CUPE 411, submitted a complaint against Neufeld and the school district to the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal

The complaint says "the board has failed to provide a work environment free of discrimination."