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SD57 board room evacuated after outbursts from public

School District 57’s Board of Trustees first meeting since February was disrupted to the point of evacuation tonight (Tuesday) just 20 minutes in.

Between this meeting and the last, two trustees resigned, a superintendent was fired, the media was ignored and very few public statements were made.

As a result, the public packed the board room to the point of standing room only.

Some notable people in attendance included Betty Bekkering and Gillian Burnett, the trustees who resigned before spring break, and Sharel Warrington and Ron Polillo, both former trustees.

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However, it would not take long for the board room to be left completely empty, as disruptions from members of the public around 20 minutes in forced board chair Rachael Weber to shut down the meeting and call a recess.

Prince George District Teacher’s Association President Daryl Beauregard was in the middle of addressing the board – something he was not allowed to do in February – about the ongoing issue of SOGI (Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity) policies.

Beauregard called to attention the fact these provincial policies have come under attack from some people and groups around the country, provincially, and locally.

“Safety and belonging for all students is a fragile thing,” he said – as an example adding “after one of the meetings I spoke here, two members of the public followed employees to their cars and harrassed them.”

On March 3rd, he said he received a letter from the Minister of Education that read “the Ministry of Education and Childcare’s expectation is that elected trustees model the conduct the school system strives to see in its students and graduates. It is critically important that trustees demonstrate respect for human rights, respect for others, and rational, evidence based decision making.”

Soon after, two members of the public cut Beauregard off when he suggested the board “make it known anti-SOGI and anti-inclusion opponents, people who want to run [in the bi-election] on that agenda, should be discouraged.”

Two men standing by the board room doors yelled out at Beauregard, telling him what he was saying is “undemocratic.”

They remained silent until he was finished, but between his presentation and the following one, they spoke up again.

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It started when one man asked for a point of order, which Weber immediately denied.

“I got a question, it is a simple question,” he persisted. “Where is the inclusiveness when you don’t let people speak.”

Weber told the man his point of order was denied four times before announcing they would be clearing the board room.

“You don’t even know where I stand on anything,” the man said, continuing to immediately say “this whole SOGI thing is division. You are dividing the kids.”

He continued to protest as the crowd filed out, and was not seen among the crowd when the doors eventually re-opened.

The entire gallery was ushered into the hallway where they remained for about five minutes while the board had a small, private meeting.

When the public was allowed back in, Weber made it clear another outburst would result in the doors to the board room being closed to the public for the remainder of the meeting.

There is time set aside at the end of the meeting for the public to address the board regarding items in the meeting – to the surprise of everyone in attendance, despite the outburst in the middle of the meeting nobody spoke when given the chance at the end.

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Later in the meeting the board quickly and unanimously passed policies 23 and 24 – Anti-Racism, Anti-Discrimination and Cultural Safety, and Indigenous Racial Reconciliation.

Following the meeting, Weber spoke to media in her first media scrum since being named board chair about the outbursts.

“The public is concerned and they are coming with comments,” she said. “If he would have waited until the public comments he would have had more than enough time to express his concerns to the board.”

The rest of the conversation with Weber will be published tomorrow (Wednesday).

You can read more about the province’s SOGI policies here.

Something going on in the Prince George area you think people should know about?
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