CHILLIWACK, B.C. – British Columbia’s education minister is joining calls for a school board member to step down after the trustee said education policies aimed at supporting LGBTQ students amount to child abuse.
The Chilliwack Board of Education passed a motion Thursday asking trustee Barry Neufeld to resign over the comments he made on Facebook, saying Neufeld has lost the confidence of the board and partners in learning.
Education Minister Rob Fleming echoed the call Friday in a Facebook post, saying Neufeld’s comments were hurtful and offensive, and undermine the goals of the school board and the ministry.
Neufeld declined comment on the board’s motion or Fleming’s remarks when reached by phone on Friday but the board’s statement says Neufeld has stated he intends to continue in the position.
In October, Neufeld criticized proposed changes to the board’s Safe Schools Policy that align with the B.C. Human Rights Code ensuring all students are free of harassment, including those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer.
He later apologized for his comments in a statement, saying he believes in a safe learning environment, but added that educational resources should be reviewed by parents and teachers before they’re implemented.
In an interview with The Canadian Press in October, Neufeld said he believes the district’s Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity program encourages children to question their biological gender and consider gender transition.
“Throwing that out there for Grade 4 children to consider, to me, that is not wise and it infringes on the rights of parents to make these decisions,” he said.
The Chilliwack Board of Education says in a statement that it has received many letters from parents, teachers and other groups who expressed concerns about the controversial comments and they wanted Neufeld to resign.
Fleming said the controversy has undermined the school district’s ability to “focus on other goals for student success.”
“While individuals are entitled to their opinions, Mr. Neufeld has jeopardized student safety, divided his school community, and acted against board and ministry policies,” he said in a statement.
Fleming noted that an education minister does not have the authority to dismiss an individual trustee, but he does not believe that Neufeld should continue in his role.
“It’s time for him to now do the right thing for the Chilliwack school community and step down,” the minister said.
Neufeld has been a trustee for two decades.