CHILLIWACK, B.C. — A school board trustee in British Columbia is vowing to stay in his job, despite calls that he resign over controversial remarks he made about LGBTQ issues.
Barry Neufeld says in a statement that he “must” remain on the Chilliwack Board of Education to protect “impressionable children.”
The statement comes after the board passed a motion on Thursday asking him to resign, saying he has publicly made statements expressing “strong opposition” to the expansion of the B.C. Human Rights Code to include sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as curriculum initiatives on the same subjects.
Neufeld says in his statement that he does not oppose changes to the province’s human rights code and that nothing he has said is contrary to the code.
Last fall, Neufeld criticized an educational resource aimed at supporting LGBTQ students, calling it a “weapon of propaganda” and saying it was “nothing short of child abuse.”
Neufeld later apologized for his comments, saying he believes in a safe learning environment, but that educational resources should be reviewed by parents and teachers before they’re implemented.
In his latest statement, released on Friday, the trustee said he wants all students to receive an “excellent education regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity, race, religion or other group identity.”
Neufeld said he does take issue with educators teaching that gender is fluid, that there are more than two genders and that gender is not based in biology.
He said he believes children will be “confused and harmed” by such teaching.
“It is my duty as an elected school board official to speak up when the best interests of children may be compromised,” said Neufeld, who has been a trustee for more than two decades. “I will continue to do my duty as trustee in this regard, while exercising my constitutional freedom of expression as a Canadian.”
British Columbia’s education minister has also called for Neufeld to step down, saying in a Facebook post on Friday that the trustee’s comments were hurtful and offensive, and undermine the goals of the school board and the ministry.
“While individuals are entitled to their opinions, Mr. Neufeld has jeopardized student safety, divided his school community, and acted against board and ministry policies,” Rob Fleming 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.
The Canadian Press