The Central Okanagan Board of Education has declared the month of June as ‘Pride Month’ in the public school system.
The intent behind that declaration is to reaffirm the school district’s support for LGBTQ2 students, that school staff, administration and trustees provide a safe place for those students to attend school without the threat of discrimination or prejudice being directed at them.
Trustee Valene Johnson reminded her fellow trustees how important it is for each of them to stand behind Central Okanagan students and staff, to participate in Pride Month school events to show leadership and meaning behind that declaration.
“Leadership and encouragement is part of our role as trustees,” Johnson said at the board of education meeting on Wednesday (May 24).
“That we support all members of our community.”
Johnson reiterated a past comment from board of education chair Lee-Ann Tiede that all students are important within the public school system.
Trustee Wayne Broughton said the ideals of Pride Month take on added significance given the divisive culture divide in the U.S. which has led to Republican Party controlled state legislatures to adopt laws that he says effectively erase certain groups of people from their constitutional rights and recognition.
Related to schools, state lawmakers are trying to prevent trans students from participating in school activities such as sports and censor any in-school discussions of LGBTQ people, and to limit education resources that reinforce LGBTQ identity or recognition.
In Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis, now officially seeking to be the Republican Party presidential nominee in the 2024 election, has championed new laws that have left teachers feeling anxious, confused and beaten down about how issues of race and gender identity can be taught in the classroom, what teachers can say about LGBTQ issues and what books are permitted in schools.
And it leaves students identifying as LGBTQ with now no visible support or recognition from their state government.
Broughton said he is concerned that trend could drift into Canadian political discourse moving forward.
“It is important we listen to kids and what they tell us about themselves,” Broughton said.
“We need to be reminded that transgender kids are not a political ideology. They are people.”