Lord Byng PAC chair forced to withdraw letter to VSB

The chairperson of Lord Byng secondary’s parent advisory council has had to withdraw her open letter to the Vancouver School Board about its draft sexual orientation and gender identity policy.

More than 200 people attended Byng’s last PAC meeting of the year to discuss the letter Cheryl Chang wrote urging the VSB to delay passing its draft revised policy, which she considers seriously flawed.

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“It got spicy,” said the president of Byng’s gay straight alliance, Irene Lin, regarding the Tuesday meeting that included Chang suggesting the police should be called to cope with people, who weren’t Byng parents, who attended and wanted to speak.

“There were a number of people who did storm off in quite a disruptive manner,” said Grade 12 student Myim Bakan Kline, when former Byng transgender student Cormac O’Dwyer took the mic. “It was hard to tell what they were yelling exactly... I was standing with other students and they yelled at us, as well, some seemingly homophobic slurs.”

Chang said she and others objected to those who aren’t Byng parents disrupting the meeting. Chang says she told students she’d be happy to meet with them another time.

Lin said she and Bakan Kline achieved their goals by speaking at the meeting. The letter they felt didn’t represent their school has been withdrawn, and 61 parents signed up to join the PAC “so that next year we would have, perhaps, a more balanced PAC,” said Lin.

Lin says she’s received numerous Facebook messages from former students who were concerned the inclusive environment they experienced at Byng had deteriorated.

“We’ve had a revolving door of upset kids coming in,” said Shelley Sullivan, department head of counselling and student services at Byng.

Sullivan estimates up to one per cent of the 1,300 students at the school in West Point Grey express “gender fluidity” and/or identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

“It’s just as common to see two girls walking down the hall holding hands as it is to see a girl and a guy or two guys,” she said. “Here, it’s just kind of the norm.”

The VSB’s PRIDE advisory committee drafted revisions to the board’s decade-old policy to reflect how some Vancouver schools have worked to become more comfortable for trans students and to provide clear guidelines for other schools.

The VSB heard from speakers at three meetings this month. The policy is to go before the VSB’s education and student services committee, June 11.

So did anything Chang hear address her concerns?

“No,” she said.

The developer and lawyer wants the B.C. colleges of physicians and psychologists to weigh in on the policy instead of medical professionals who are involved in the trans community.

Chang said 60 people have joined the PAC “for no other reason than to remove me as chair.”

VSB chairperson Patti Bacchus says the policy is about supporting diversity and isn’t a medical issue.

Rotating Strike
Teachers will continue four days of rotating strikes next week. Teachers in Vancouver are to picket Friday, June 6. The B.C. Teachers’ Federation said job action continues because the provincial government hadn’t committed money at the bargaining table “to reach a reasonable deal on issues like class size, composition, staffing levels, and fair wages for teachers.”

The Labour Relations Board will consider arguments today (May 29) about the 10 per cent wage rollback the provincial government has said it instituted in response to BCTF job action. The LRB is expected to reach a decision after the Courier’s press deadline.

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This story has been modified since it was first posted.

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