Controversial Chilliwack school trustee Barry Neufeld won’t be seen in any schools in the district as a liaison for the board.
Neufeld’s repeated comments about the LGBTQ community over the last year, and the distress it has caused to some teachers and students, led board chair Dan Coulter to put forth a motion at Tuesday’s board meeting to remove his name from the list of trustees who will serve as school liaisons.
The discussion that followed was heated and followed along predictable lines with Neufeld and his two-fellow trustees who have also expressed opposition to the anti-bullying resource SOGI 123 against the four trustees in support of the resource.
Neufeld called the move to exclude him discriminatory.
“My name has been omitted,” he said. “In other words, the chair is barring me from having any contact with schools. I was elected in Chilliwack to do the job of a school trustee. He has prevented me from doing that and that is really workplace discrimination.”
Not acting as a school liaison, however, is nothing new for Neufeld who stepped back from his duties as trustee a year ago over his anti-SOGI 123 comments, all while continuing to receive full remuneration.
The issue of who serves as liaison trustees and at what schools is usually not something that comes to the full board. Board chair Dan Coulter added it to the agenda at the last minute because he said he “was accused of being a dictator.”
In speaking in favour of leaving him off the liaison list, vice-chair Willow Reichelt said because of Neufeld’s past and recent comments about gay and transgender youth, it’s not acceptable that he attend to schools for teacher and student safety.
“I actually believe that nobody who has opinions that contravene the human rights code and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms has any business being in schools…. Mr. Neufeld has made discriminatory comments about gay and transgender people.”
Since Neufeld first came out in opposition to the Ministry of Education-approved LGBTQ anti-bullying resource SOGI 123, and since he stepped back from his duties, he has doubled down and made many controversial comments on social media.
His latest, which was deleted a few days later, sparked particular ire online.
“The elites will destroy all gay kids,” it said on his Facebook profile, a profile that now appears to be deleted. “They are culling them from the gene pool. Make no mistake about it. The trans agenda is eugenics. They are not on the side of LGBT+. Don’t ever think they are. Snakes are everywhere. More division and the destruction of humanity.”
Trustees Heather Maahs and Darrell Furgason spoke in defence of Neufeld.
“No chair or corporate board has the right to target one member especially after an election, especially when you look at what the numbers are,” Maahs said, pointing to Neufeld’s high vote tally in the Oct. 20 election. “They disagree with half of our population and therefore are going to impose their will on them. This is undemocratic and this is improper to say the least.”
Furgason, who himself has posted controversial statements and links about the LGBTQ community, said the board must represent all parents, and he called Neufeld’s exclusion a “vendetta of sorts.”
Trustees Jared Mumford and David Swankey, also spoke in favour of Coulter’s motion and the need to ensure Neufeld is not in contact with students or teachers in a liaison role.
“This is not really about parents of students and I think what brought this on was the feeling of students and teachers feeling unsafe because of comments made by Trustee Neufeld and posts made by Trustee Neufeld,” Mumford said. “I think we need to keep this conversation about the students and the teachers in the schools that he would be visiting as a liaison.”
Swankey added that excluding Neufeld did not stop any school or group of parents from having contact with the board, which is the point of the liaison role.
“What I would suggest is this is a democratic, transparent process,” he said. “There is a loss of trust in one of our colleagues…. For myself, I can’t trust that Trustee Neufeld will be a responsible liaison at this point.”
The role of liaison as set out in school board policy 223 is to provide opportunity for trustees to become acquainted with schools; act on behalf of the board when a board representative is desired at school functions; provide opportunity for increased communication between trustees and residents of the community; and advise the board chair or the superintendent of any emerging issues at their schools or sites.”
The question of feeling safe came up at the school board meeting itself, with Chilliwack Teachers’ Association vice-president Reid Clark stating at the podium during question period that he felt unsafe at the meeting, which was attended by a number of anti-SOGI 123 individuals, some from outside the community.
The issue of Trustee Furgason being assigned as liaison to Chilliwack Middle School, F.G. Leary Elementary, Greendale Elementary and Strathcona Elementary came up at the meeting, given his past statements about Islam and the LGBTQ community, and is likely one that won’t go away in the coming weeks and months.
Trustee Reichelt even implied that Furgason should have been left off the liaison list as well as Neufeld.
“If it was up to me, I would exclude another trustee as well but that hasn’t been done in this case.”
Full list of trustee liaisons and their schools for the 2018-2019 school year:
• Trustee Jared Mumford: Central Elementary Community School, G.W. Graham Secondary, McCammon Traditional Elementary, Mt. Slesse Middle School, Unsworth Elementary
• Trustee Dan Coulter: Bernard Elementary, Cheam Elementary, Cultus Lake Community School, Promontory Heights Elementary, Sardis Secondary
• Trustee Willow Reichelt: Chilliwack Secondary, Robertson Elementary, Vedder Elementary, Watson Elementary, Yarrow Community School
• Trustee David Swankey: East Chilliwack Elementary, Education Centre, Evans Elementary, Little Mountain Elementary, Rosedale Traditional School
• Trustee Heather Maahs: A.D. Rundel Middle School, Fraser Valley Distance Education School, Sardis Elementary, Tyson Elementary, Vedder Middle School
• Trustee Darrell Furgason: Chilliwack Middle School, F.G. Leary Elementary, Greendale Elementary, Strathcona Elementary