“Statistically we know there are LGBTQ2S students in every school, but the degree to which these students are visible is dependent on the level of safety and inclusiveness fostered within the building. When students aren’t free to be themselves, their learning is deeply impacted.”

“By putting a champion in every school and resources at the ends of every educator’s finger tips, SOGI 123 provides a critical framework for creating schools in which everyone feels welcome to be themselves.” – Trustee Jordan Watters, SD61 Greater Victoria

SOGI 1 2 3 is a learning resource created by ARC Foundation in collaboration with the Ministry of Education and educators to support all students regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity and provide educators with the capacity to build inclusive school environments. The 2017-2018 school year has seen learning communities engage in SOGI-inclusive education like never before. In just its second year, the SOGI Educator Network now consists of 54 school districts and continues to grow. While many educators have been engaged in SOGI-inclusive work for years, the Network has centralized resources, fostered regular collaboration and expedited professional growth. Each of these member districts is represented by a SOGI District Lead who attends regional meetings and oversees the recruitment and training for SOGI School Leads. Currently there are over 1300 SOGI School Leads championing this work in schools and offering professional learning opportunities. Within these 54 districts there is the capacity to reach over 90% of the students enrolled within British Columbia’s public schools. SOGIeducation.org has played a key role in the success of this work. Countless resources available to educators have eliminated barriers for SOGI policy-making, professional development and classroom instruction. To date there have been over 76,000 unique visitors, 24,000 lesson downloads and 17,000 views of the SOGI 1 2 3 Learning Modules and videos.

“Just as we teach students about the existence of various religions and cultures (without encouraging or discouraging them to follow any particular religion), it is important that students be exposed (in an age appropriate manner) to the fact that there are a variety of sexual orientations and gender identities. Notwithstanding some inaccurate criticisms, as with religions and cultures, students are not encouraged or discouraged to have any particular sexual orientation or gender identity … and are certainly not encouraged to change theirs. Quite the contrary, whether focusing on religion, physical attributes, learning differences, culture or gender identity / sexual orientation, we encourage acceptance of people the way they are. This is especially important when people are not just like us.” – Trustee Rob MacFarlane, SD35 Langley

While there have been plenty of developments to celebrate this year, this success has not arrived without some challenges. Some parents have inquired about content, age appropriateness or a perceived conflict with family values. In response to these questions, online resources for parents have been expanded to include a brochure (translated into five languages), videos and a customizable presentation. The creation of the SOGI 1 2 3 Parent Resources was a joint effort between ARC Foundation, the Ministry of Education and BCCPAC. Beyond the parent questions, organized opposition to SOGI 1 2 3 has presented itself, but educators have stood firm and been buttressed by the overt support provided by B.C.’s educational leadership groups: BCTF, BCSSA, MOE, BCSTA, BCCPAC and BCPVPA. The support of trustees is particularly inspiring given the political courage required within some districts. Looking ahead, SOGI 1 2 3 will continue to support inclusive education for students, staff and parents across B.C. It is also hoped that the SOGI Educator Network will soon include all of our public school districts, as well as many independent schools. In the meantime, thank you to the BCSTA members who have supported SOGI 1 2 3 and worked to ensure inclusive school environments for all students.

Matt Carruthers, BC SOGI Education Lead

Learn more at www.sogieducation.org