Student Anthony Hope was part of a group that helped establish an anti-homophobia regulation in the Surrey School District.

Surrey hopes to close the book on homophobia

School trustees adopt regulation addressing sexual orientation and gender identity.

Thursday was a big night for Anthony Hope.

The Surrey student was on-hand as school trustees gave their unanimous approval to an anti-homophobia regulation.

“It’s very validating for me because it signals that the board does care about students like me and students who are LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning), or have gay or lesbian parents or gender identity issues,” said Hope. “The board is recognizing this and saying that it’s okay.”

Prior to coming out, he said, there were times he felt it was far from okay to be gay. He hated himself and was afraid because everything he read about homosexuality seemed to be negative. But when a friend committed suicide as a result of gay bashing, Hope took action.

He was among a group that approached the Surrey Board of Education a year ago, calling for the school district to establish an anti-homophobia policy. A committee comprised of teachers, district staff, parents and students was struck almost immediately, spending months forming a stand-alone regulation aimed at supporting “students, staff and community members of all sexual orientations or gender identities.”

Hope said while the subject is often an emotional one, everyone came to the table with passion and with an open mind. He believes the regulation will spark classroom conversations and result in greater openness and acceptance.

“We’re moving forward and it’s going to counteract the history of Surrey and hopefully change the perception,” said Hope.

The history he refers to goes back more than a decade – but is one that haunts the school district.

It began in 1997 when a primary teacher named James Chamberlain asked the board of the day to approved three children’s books featuring same-sex parents. His request was denied, sparking legal action that spanned years, divided the community, garnered national attention and proceeded all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada.

On Thursday, Chamberlain, now a vice-principal in Vancouver, said he was “cautiously optimistic” about Surrey’s new regulation.

“A regulation or policy is only as good as the paper it’s written on unless you have a really good implementation policy,” he said. “Because of their history and the perpetuation of homophobia by previous trustees… there’s a bigger onus on Surrey.”

Jordan Tinney, deputy superintendent, acknowledged there remains much work to be done in the fall, including developing staff resources and training programs, educating students and parents about the regulation and weaving it into age-appropriate curriculum.

He lauded the committee members, in particular the youth, for their dedication, noting there were many long, open and frank conversations before pens were put to paper.

“The impact of the student voice at the table was significant and substantial,” said Tinney.

“We hope this will close one or more books on our history…and show we’re ready to move forward.”

There are 23 other school districts in B.C. that have also established anti-homophobia regulations and policies.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Wally Oppal says policing ‘too important’ to be left to the police

Oppal was keynote speaker at a Surrey Board of Trade “Hot Topic Dialogue” breakfast event Wednesday

Surrey skater speeds his way to four golds, a silver at BC Winter Games

‘I just really enjoy going fast on the ice,’ says Barnett Liu, 14

‘Urgent’ need for Metro Vancouver homeless count volunteers

Organizers say another 100 people are sought to help in Surrey and Burnaby

UPDATE: Surrey RCMP say missing 14-year-old has been found and is safe

Brayden Ritchat, 14, had been last seen in the 10800-block of 141st Street in Whalley on Feb. 21

VIDEO: Minister says consider coronavirus outbreak when planning for spring break

Foreign Affairs minister points to rash of new cases appearing in places like Italy and Iran

Alberta tourist dies after plunge from 70-metre cliff in Stanley Park

The 26-year-old hopped a fence at Prospect Point on fell to a walkway below, police said

B.C. man who pulled a gun on off-duty cop gets two years in prison

Encounter also lead police to a home where 100 guns and explosives were found

New Westminster woman’s ‘out of character’ disappearance probed by police

She left without telling anyone, prompting investigation by Major Crimes Unit, police say

EDITORIAL: Fraser Health needs to be transparent to fight coronavirus panic

Fraser Health and other authorities are not helping by being vague in recent communications

Riverdale actress Lili Reinhart rescues puppy from Langley shelter

American actress named her adopted pup Milo

How clean is your favourite local restaurant or café?

Online inspection reports allow consumers to find health hazard of all food facilities in region

Protecting privacy key to stopping spread of COVID-19, B.C. health officials say

The number of coronavirus cases in B.C. remains at seven

Most Read

l -->