Vancouver school board censures two NPA trustees over controversial videos

The Vancouver School Board passed a motion Monday (January 16) to re-affirm its support for the district’s anti-homophobia policy, as it voted to censure two NPA trustees for their comments that surfaced in controversial videos last month.

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Do you agree with the censuring of NPA school trustees Ken Denike and Sophia Woo?

Yes 81%
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No 15%
48 votes
Unsure 3%
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COPE trustee Allan Wong said the censure motion was unprecedented in his 12 years on the school board.

“This two-part motion is about ensuring our students—all our students, parents, staff—are aware of our anti-homophobia policy, and it is clear that this board tonight takes this issue of anti-homophobia seriously and passionately,” he said. “It’s crucial to make it unequivocal that this board is committed to continue making our schools safe.”

Wong’s motion was opposed by the NPA’s three representatives on the board, but won the support of all Vision Vancouver trustees, including board chair Patti Bacchus.

“The board stands firmly behind its anti-homophobic policy that has been in place since 2004,” said Bacchus following the meeting. “The message is that our schools are safe, they are welcoming, they are inclusive—for all families, all staff and all students—and we will stand by that, and that we will condemn any actions to the contrary.”

Bacchus said the censure motion arose from what she called the “mis-representation” of the board’s anti-homophobia policy through comments made by NPA trustees Ken Denike and Sophia Woo.

The first video that surfaced last month featured Denike and Woo speaking about their concerns with an anti-bullying booklet for teachers published in 2006.

The second video was filmed at a Christian Social Concern Fellowship gathering, and featured Denike and Woo speaking about possible changes to the school curriculum involving LGBT issues, and implying that Vancouver only has a general anti-discrimination policy, and not a specific anti-homophobia policy.

Denike called Monday’s motion “a total ambush”. He said the NPA trustees don’t have a problem with the district’s anti-homophobia policy, but that their concern was with what he called a lack of oversight from the board over the use of “sensitive material”.

Denike said the material that sparked the controversy was posted in a link through the Out in Schools anti-bullying booklet to a gay men’s health website that included what he called an “explicit” video. The booklet has since been reprinted with the link removed.

“I do not have a difficulty with the policy as it’s set out,” said Denike. “I think we have a difficulty in terms of oversight. This board has not taken responsibility to oversight, and that’s the issue I raised with it.”

“We have been very supportive of the anti-bullying and anti-homophobic guidelines, but as trustees, we are responsible of oversight of age-appropriate materials, and we are responsible with keeping parents informed,” said Woo.

NPA trustee Fraser Ballantyne spoke against the censure motion and accused Bacchus as chairperson of "political gamesmanship".

"There may have been some misinterpretations, but to take it to censure is above and beyond, and I think a cruel personal attack to try and get some political points," he said.

The board’s vote on the motion Monday evening was followed by a heated question period, as members of the public spoke out both in favour and against the board’s move, and some speakers were heckled by audience members.

Several speakers directed questions and comments to the NPA trustees on their position on anti-homophobia policies in schools, including Grade 10 student Sarah Bercic, who read a statement requesting that Woo and Denike “resign immediately”.

“Being bullied is just being in an atmosphere where you’re terrified to be who you are, every minute of every day,” she said.

“I don’t want a trustee on my school board who isn’t willing to fully protect rights of every student.”

Ryan Clayton was also among the speakers at the meeting. A post on Twitter from Clayton had earlier been cited by Denike and Woo as a source of information that possible changes were coming to the school curriculum on LGBT issues. Clayton denied those claims, and said he was abroad when the trustees said they received the information.

But Clayton said the "core issue" of the trustees' support for the anti-homophobia policy has been cleared up.

He added that he was "shocked" by the amount of heckling that took place during the meeting.

"There were people who made statements like talking about orientation is talking about sex, and it's inappropriate for kids," he said. "If anyone ever doubted that we're still a marginalized, targeted group, here's proof."

Vision Vancouver trustee Mike Lombardi noted in comments in support of Wong’s motion that the anti-homophobia policy adopted by Vancouver puts the board “in a leadership position”.

“As a result of the policy of the school board, we have many schools districts throughout this country that have similar types of policies,” he said. “This is a very forward-looking policy which brings respect to our schools and treats everybody with the kind of dignity they deserve.”

You can follow the Straight's LGBT coverage on Twitter at twitter.com/StraightLGBT.

Comments (18) Add New Comment
janebouey
The fear and hate that was demonstrated by those opposed to the Board's anti-homophobia work last night proved importance of the motion of affirmation of policy and censure. This is the ugly face of what trustees Denike and Woo sowed and if they had any conscience they would be ashamed and resign.

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Davis
Bye Bye NPA !
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Gentleman Jack
Now, just a second. You cannot successfully re-engineer a system of custom simply by calling it "hateful." By the common law as reported at 12 Co. Rep 36, "it appears by the ancient authorities of law, that this [buggary] was felony," but the sources vary in punishment and the degree to which they ascribe criminality to the act. The Mirror of Justice, one of the best law books ever written, perhaps second only to the Holy Scriptures, calls it "Crimen Laesae Majestatis", a sin horrible committed against the King of Heaven.

So, it is a question of why anyone has the right to engage in homosexual acts---it is certainly not by ancient law, that is, custom, so it is either by political law or positive law. Political and positive law are subject to change and there must always be a dialogue about them---except in the eyes of violators of our ancient custom who wish to consolidate their gains by using the public school system to stamp out debate upon sundry topics. Dare to question the dogma, and you will be called names---ironic, isn't it? Namecalling is "offensive" and "hateful", if the name is "faggot" but calling someone with a different political point of view a "homophobe" is A-OK.

The inmates have surely taken over the asylum and are in the process of destroying every that anciently protected children and their happiness. But at least TV has lots of channels, right?

Thankfully, there will be a Day of Judgment upon which the Son of Man judges the quick and the dead---so it's not for me to worry too much, except, perhaps, that the normalization of behaviour contrary to ancient law poses a grave risk to the legal system. Today it is sodomy; tomorrow, "why should you have a trial before we put you in jail? That just gives you hateful criminals an opportunity to grandstand and to repeat the horror for your victims, by allowing you to confront them during the hateful requirement that they testify!" The ancient law is all or nothing---it's not that far a ride down, as last century shows, until you're shoving people into trains to death camps without any trial or due process. But, ah, this century, I am sure we'll get the right people into the trains, eh?
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Carrie Bercic
@ "Gentleman Jack" Not much is required to earn the name "homophobe". ho·mo·pho·bi·a (h m -f b - ). n. 1. Fear of ****or contempt for**** lesbians and gay men. 2. Behavior based on such a feeling.

Is that not the point that so many homophobes are trying to get across? Their personal contempt for homosexuals? Does that not, by definition make someone a homophobe? Why is it such a terrible problem to you to be called a homophobe? I would think that should be a title that you would wear proudly in the name of your "king of heaven".
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Ron Gray
Student attempted to ‘sandbag’ VSB Trustee
Ken Denike with her ‘evolution’ question

You could gain an interesting insight into the state of contemporary education Monday night by listening to some of the audience participation at the Vancouver School Board’s regular meeting.

At one point, late in the evening, a sweet-faced high school girl came forward to question Trutee Ken Denike.

“Mr. Denike,” she began…

That was her first mistake: The correct form of address is “Trustee Denike”, in recognition of the trust placed in him by the electorate (or, at least, the 10 to 20 percent of the electorate that bothers to vote in school board elections).

Or she might have addressed him as “Doctor Denike”, in acknowledgement of his PhD from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, with thesis in public finance. He is also faculty emeritus at UBC and the recipient of numerous awards, and a graduate of the University of British Columbia's Science Faculty and School of Community and Regional Planning.

Instead, this half-educated product of our modern schools went tried to portray Dr. Denike as an ignoramus:

“Mr. Denike, do you believe in evolution?” she asked.

The question was irrelevant to the night’s main topic of debate, which was whether the Vancouver School Board should have endorsed a highly-political pro-homosexual “teaching resource” that exposes students to raw gay pornography.

By inference, she was trying to brand Trustee Denike’s criticisms as religious bigotry.

Quite properly, Trustee Denike declined to answer the question, saying instead that he supports Ministry of Education guidelines for science education.

But the question provides an opportunity to challenge the prevailing orthodoxy this girl was imbibing—and believing; and orthodoxy that is without scientific proof.

She’s probably not aware (because it surely would never be mentioned in any of her classes) that Professor Phillip Johnson (who has taught law for more than 20 years at the University of California, Berkeley) stirred that pot back in 1993—somewhere near the time she was born—with his book Darwin on Trial, in which he subjected the “evidence” for Darwin’s evolutionary theory to the forensic standards of evidence used in a court.

The result? “None of it would be accepted as evidence in a court of law,” said Prof. Johnson.

And she’s much too young to have heard about the famous exchange among scientists in 1981 at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, when Colin Patterson, who at that time was head curator at the British Museum of Natural History in London, asked his audience, “Can you tell me anything about evolution—any one thing—that is true?”

After a lengthy pause, one of the scientists present responded, “I know it should not be taught in high school.”

But it is taught in high schools—and taught as “fact”, rather than theory.

Thus students like the one who confronted Trustee Denike are misled into believing that thousands of scientists who have been convinced by the evidence that a theory like Intelligent Design is more rational than Darwinian evolution, are “brainless religious bigots.”

It’s a pity, because while her question was irrelevant to the subject at hand, it was vivid evidence of the mis-education that our public schools inflict.

In most private schools, the theory of evolution is taught—along with the means of evaluating it, pro and con.

One can only image the hoots and cat-calls that would have resulted if Trustee Denike had attempted to advocate such a position in response to the irrelevant—and, in fact, bigoted—question put to him by a naïve student Monday night.

=30=
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GOT
If the VSB is so concerned about anti-bullying, how about going to bat for our teachers, instead of using threats to try to get them to submit to the province's bullying of just about anyone involved in educating our children? This situation with Denike and Wong amply illustrates what's wrong with the VSB trustees - they themselves don't know where the line exists between bullying and not bullying, whatever form it takes. By all means censure these two out-of-line trustees, if that's the appropriate measure to take, then censure yourselves for not supporting the people who are actually on the front lines in our education system: our teachers and our kids. Your continued lack of support for them speaks much more loudly than this token censuring of two trustees and the positive media spin you obviously hope to gain by it.
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WendiG
Censure isn't enough, and an old hand like Denike should know this..it's beyond pathetic that these two don't stand up for their own warped belief systems and resign.
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Gentleman Jack
Carrie, you illustrate very well how it is impossible to have a dialogue on this issue---rather than focusing on the correctness or incorrectness of the Report cited, you focus on a rather sideline issue, one pointed out with no small bit of irony: the idea that it is inappropriate to label a customary transgressor a faggot yet completely appropriate to label a customary law-abider a "homophobe." For by the Report cited, to agree with such is to be a "homophobe", is it not, by your definition?

But you're right---as someone who got educated before they started the sissification programme, I know that sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me. It's too bad that now they focus on sensitizing people to words, rather than developing a manly sense of self that is impervious to vocal attack.

Ron Gray, thanks for the observation---as Marilyn Manson sings in one of his better songs, which might be said of these "students", they are

"Raised to be stupid, taught to be nothing at all."

Perhaps we may add a caveat---raised to be stupid, taught to be nothing at all except for what their post-1960s cultural theory spewing teachers approve. I mean, everyone who supports this stuff knows its philosophical and academic genesis, right? Surely you're not all a bunch of useful idiots who don't know about how these ideas have been implanted into society, right? Oh, right, everyone just became "moral" lately...riiight...and so moral are they that they realize everything heretofore is immoral and must be purged! Hey, sounds like a group that gained power in Germany in the early part of the last century!
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Vancouver becoming a Nazi State
It seems there is only one school of thought permitted here in Vancouver. If you dare to cling to traditional values on marriage you are quickly branded a "homophobe", are subject to harsh and often mean-spirited criticism, and ultimately it could and probably will cost you your job.

When exactly did free speech / free thinking die here in Vancouver?
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Kendra P.
Ron Gray was the gentleman from Langley who, last night, identified himself as a journalist, then accused the elected trustees of being "fascists". He was seated next to Kari Simpson, the woman who once sued Raif Mair for comparing her to Hitler on the radio. Every time someone used the word "homophobia", they interrupted and yelled "SLUR! SLUR!", which elicited much laugher from the audience. It seems that Ron demands respectful dialogue from everyone but himself.

These people are not content to raise their own children, but insist upon driving into the big city and interfering in our children's lives, pushing their activist ideology on us.

How frightening it must be for these two to live in a world where gays are finally equal under the law. I pity them.
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Morty
Ron Gray: You must be quite satisfied in yourself, having taken such a strong stand against a high-school student with the temerity not to use the correct honorific in addressing a school trustee (though I note you misspelled "trustee"—you must be ashamed of yourself). Perhaps if you put the same effort into studying evolution and modern scientific thought that you put into familiarizing yourself with the career of Mister Doctor Trustee Denike you would realize that your arguments against evolution have long since been discredited. Evolution is accepted as scientific fact by all but a small rump of religious stalwarts. If Trustee Denike is not willing to accept that or chooses to put religious dogma ahead of fact, even privately, he is, by any reasonable definition, unfit to hold the office of Trustee. It is a reasonable question to ask of our trustees and one that I hope more voters will consider in future.

Gentleman Jack: You make the mistake of assuming that ancient law was somehow more morally valid than current statutes. There is no reason to assume that to be the case. Ancient laws were based on ancient customs and beliefs, beliefs that we largely now know to be incorrect. Arguments that "homosexuality is a sin" are meaningless outside of their religious contexts—and our current society is based on secular, not sacred, laws. To put it bluntly, your position is abhorrent and has no place in modern society. By resorting to name-calling and accusations that those who fail to share your misguided beliefs are somehow uneducated or stupid—and I can virtually guarantee you that I am more well-educated than you—you tacitly admit as much.
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felix
Some of the bizarre statements on this site and by some at the VSB meeting last night cry out for a response - particularly the accusation that supporters of the Board's anti-homophobia policy are "imposing fascism" on their critics. (See "Vancouver becoming a Nazi state" above.) Remember that the victims of the Nazis included not only 6 million Jews, countless political opponents of Hitler such as the Communists and Social Democrats, trade unionists, Slavic peoples conquered by the Nazis, but also groups such as the Romany ("gypsies") and of course homosexuals, who were interned and murdered in huge numbers. To compare VSB trustees who are outspoken in defense of the rights of LGBTQ students and staff with the Nazis is a shocking and utterly appalling tactic, designed to silence people. Note also that one of the leaders of the homophobic forces is Kari Simpson, who is frequently lauded by groups such as the so-called "Radical Press". Look up the Radical Press on the web and you will find such gems as the classic anti-Jewish forgery called the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion", articles by the outrageous anti-Semite Eustace Mullins, etc. Frankly, these people and their wild lies and accusations make me sick. Congratulations to the Vision and COPE trustees and all the community members who had the courage to stand up to this pack of hate-mongers last night.
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Diogenes
While the autodidacts rail at the VSB, God is busy hanging around stroking his long white beard. He's looking down at us all from Heaven. One of those cute little cherubim is playing a tiny silver harp and intoning..."God Bless The VSB"...God Bless The VSB...God Bless The VSB...
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Gentleman Jack
Morty, only in topsy-turvy time do we have it called "misguided" to follow the common law. What is Supreme in your society, Morty? It is not God, so what is it? Your Queen, whose vicar is she?
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Bradley C.
Here's what drives me bananas. I am a religious person by faith. I DO BELIEVE that God loves us all equally and unconditionally (Gay or Straight).

However I do believe in the traditional version of marriage and that it is not intended for same-sex couples. Why can I not say that in Vancouver without being branded a homophobe? I think that's what the above person (RE: Nazi State) was referring to when he mentioned simple freedom of speech/beliefs.
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Kyle in Burnaby
Hey Bradley -- I believe in the Traditional Version of our voting laws. Therefore, black people should not be permitted to vote.

I believe that God loves everyone equally. I just don't think our voting laws should be intended for black people. Why are people always calling me racist?
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@Kyle. That's an old one. Doesn't quite apply
Kyle's example is tired and irellevant. A lame attempt at bringing basic human rights issues into this discussion about natural law. This silly logic could go on and on... Why can't father's marry their daughters? Why can't a man have six wives? Why why why? There are certain traditional values that have been around since the dawn of time simply because that's the way it's meant to be. A couple who cannot marry is not exactly experiencing persecution (like the blacks experienced in days past).
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GOD
So much for freedom of speech.
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