The Board is committed to establishing and maintaining a safe, inclusive, equitable, and welcoming learning and teaching environment for all members of the school community. This includes those students, staff, and families who identify or are perceived as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, two-spirit, queer or questioning their sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. The Board expects all members of this diverse community to be welcomed, respected, accepted, and supported in every school. – Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity policy, Edmonton Public School Board
Some education advocates are concerned that past comments made by a candidate for public school board in Edmonton could set the stage for a battle over the board’s Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity policy.
Speaking as the executive director of the Meadowlark Christian School Foundation in 2011, Ward C candidate Orville Chubb told Edmonton Journal columnist Paula Simons “it’s not that we are anti-gay in any way, shape or form… We just need to be able to articulate the moral element to all Christianity … and our Christian community is not able to accept that homosexual acts are not immoral. If you don’t feel comfortable with your children in that kind of milieu, don’t send your students here.”
The Meadowlark Christian School offers an alternative program within Edmonton Public Schools for “families who wish their children to be educated in the evangelical Christian tradition.”
Responding via email, Mr. Chubb wrote that his comments about being “able to articulate the moral element to all Christianity” was either a misquote or he had misspoken.
“I believe I was speaking to the issue of freedom of speech and Christianity’s view that everything has a moral overlay,” wrote Mr. Chubb. “The balance of the quote was the opinion of the majority of the parents of the school.”
“My position now, as it was then, is that you cannot legislate belief. I am a firm advocate for freedom of speech and conscience,” wrote Mr. Chubb. “I staunchly defend those who are discriminated against in any way.” Mr Chubb also noted that he participated in the committee which implemented the policy.
The current chair of the public school board says she’s proud of the work that the board has done to ensure that all students, staff and families are safe, welcome and respected in every Edmonton Public School.
“We made the decision to move forward with a policy because there is nothing more important to us than ensuring that every school is a place were students feel accepted,” said Ward G trustee Sarah Hoffman. “We have received positive feedback from the community and our accountability pillars show that students are feeling safer in our schools.”
The outgoing trustee for Ward C, Christopher Spencer, was quick to respond to Mr. Chubb’s comment. “On a factual matter, the largest Protestant denomination in Canada supports gay marriage and welcomes gay clergy, so it is incorrect to say that all Christians think that homosexuality is wrong,” said Mr. Spencer.
Mr. Spencer said more ministers and pastors contacted him in support of the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity policy than those who were opposed to the policy.
“As for the notion of some sort of gay-free school, segregation in education based on sexual orientation or gender identity seems as awful to me as segregation based on race, and it must not be allowed to happen in a public institution committed to the needs of all children,” said Mr. Spencer.
Mr. Chubb said he will support the current stand-alone policy and regulations but would include the right for a parent to express moral perspectives on any issue, including those informed by a religious perspective.