UPDATE: 6 a.m.
More voices are speaking out in support of sexual orientation and gender identity education in light of an anti-SOGI planned for Vernon on Wednesday.
In addition to School District 22, the local school board, Vernon Teachers' Association and CUPE school workers, Vernon’s Trinity United Church is calling on the community to learn more about the subject, "based on fact, caring and compassion."
Trinity United issued a statement on SOGI inclusive education, stating: “Many messages are floating around right now that concern some parents and other community members. Is SOGI-inclusive education harming our children? Does it promote sexualized behaviour?
"Does it push boys to become girls and girls to become boys?” says church member Barry Dorval, a retired educator, in the statement endorsed by church leadership.
"Whether we are parents or grandparents, more distant relatives, or simply adults who value youth in our community, we all want to know that children are safe and are being properly cared for and educated. We owe it to our kids and ourselves to learn about SOGI 123.
"SOGI 123 lessons don't teach students how to live as an LGBTQ+ person. What they do teach is that LGBTQ+ people are a part of our community, and the learning activities reinforce the importance of schools being a safe, respectful, welcoming space for all students, including those who are gay or who choose to transition," says Dorval.
The lessons aren't only for a small percentage of students who identify as LGBTQ+, he continues.
"Discrimination in any of its forms hurts everyone, regardless of whether individuals are targeted by it. Bullying makes everyone feel unsafe, not just the victim."
The statement is endorsed by Trinity's Rev. Robin Jacobson and the church board, Rev. Chris Harwood-Jones of All Saints Anglican Church, Rev. David Hunter of Peace Lutheran Church, and dnine retired United Church of Canada ministers.
"As Christ followers, we take the safe inclusion of all our children in the classroom very seriously," says Jacobsen.
ORIGINAL: 4 a.m.
As a rally against sexual orientation and gender identity education nears in Vernon, voices are mustering against its message.
Despite Supt. Christine Perkins issuing a statement Monday, the school district was joined by the board of education, Vernon Teachers' Association and CUPE school workers in a joint press release affirming "our unwavering support for inclusivity, diversity, and the promotion of SOGI education in the community."
The statement was issued late Monday afternoon.
"Our collective commitment is rooted in our desire to provide high-quality education and foster a secure, inclusive environment for all students, staff, and community members," it continues.
"We firmly believe that embracing diversity and upholding human rights is essential for the well-being and prosperity of our entire district."
The anti-SOGI rally and march plans to gather at Vernon City Hall on Wednesday and march to Polson Park.
"As individuals dedicated to education and advocacy, we have observed the profound impact of anti- 2SLGBTQ+ campaigns. These efforts have far-reaching consequences, particularly affecting our community's students, staff, and families who rely on our unwavering support," the school system members said in their statement.
"Within our schools, we have taken significant steps to establish safe spaces. We are dedicated to ensuring that every student and staff member experiences a strong sense of belonging. We unequivocally denounce any disinformation aimed at undermining the progress we have made to support our students, staff, and families.
"To our 2SLGBTQ+ students, district staff, and families, we want to reiterate our unequivocal recognition of your presence, rights, and dignity. You are integral members of our school community, and we are steadfast in our commitment to fostering an environment where you can thrive academically, socially, and emotionally.
"We will work toward safeguarding your rights and dignity and will continue to support inclusive spaces that celebrate diversity."