Social Justice Elective Case Will Go Ahead
The British Columbia Supreme Court has ruled that a pending human rights challenge regarding a cancelled, optional high school course can go ahead, despite concentrated lobbying efforts by a few parents and lobbyists.
Now, this is a strange and convoluted tale, so please grab a chair, unplug your computer, disconnect all its cables and power supply, and reposition everything next to a fireplace while I regale you with the exciting details.
It starts back in the year 2006.
Social Justice 12, an elective course that includes a unit on the rights and struggles of the GLBT community, was proposed as part of a human rights commission settlement. A ruling found that the B.C. curriculum was unfairly suppressing information beneficial to gay students, and an optional course that offered this missing information was deemed to be a nice, quick fix.
This did not sit well with the anti-gay lobby. These lobbyists became infuriated by the thought of any information about gay struggles in schools. In a concentrated effort, they called on parents to complain to the school boards. Their efforts worked, at least in one place. Officials in Abbotsford, a small city near Vancouver, panicked and cancelled Social Justice 12 just three weeks before it was scheduled to begin.
(May I re-emphasize at this point that this course was an option, available only to students who elected to take it?)
Now, Abbotsford may be small, but that doesn’t mean everyone’s small-minded. Students, having learned that their selected course was cancelled (and that they’d have to obtain credit elsewhere on very short notice to boot), complained to the schoolboard en masse. Realising the scope of their earlier decision, the board eventually decided to react to the students’ demands, but with a caveat.
Social Justice 12 would be re-introduced, but , unlike other options, each student would require parental permission to take it. Now, that’s all well and good if you’ve got a supportive family, but what about students with unsupportive parents? Particularly students whose parents had lobbied the board to turf the course in the first place, or gay students who haven’t outed themselves yet and feared a harsh reaction?
Essentially, a handful of lobbyists had still decided that no student should be able to decide for themselves whether or not to take this course. This didn’t sit well with Murray Coren, one of the community activists who helped launch the original human rights complaint in 2006. With support of students and parents, an expanded human rights complaint was launched, arguing that instating formal restrictions on the course availability undermines the settlement of the original human rights complaint.
(Hold on a second, I need to throw another log on the fire here. Poke it just a bit… Meh, good enough.)
So, a renewed human rights complaint is now pending with a good chance at success. This sent the anti-gay lobbyists into a rage. If all went as expected, students in their last year of high school would soon be able to take a course about Social Justice at their own discretion. In a pre-emptive strategy, the lobbyists appealed all the way to the Supreme Court, arguing that the human rights case should be dismissed on technicalities. The complainant isn’t a parent, they cried! (Although he was once a student). The complainant doesn’t even live in Abbotsford, they wailed! (Although school curriculum is provincial jurisdiction). But the Supreme Court would hear none of it. As of last week, it was decided that the complaint will go ahead.
It’s not over for the students of Abbotsford, and certainly not of any more relevance to the grade 12 students that have already graduated or are soon to graduate, but a brand new group of students are coming, and soon, this very silly tale will get a new chapter.
So, stay tuned for the exciting conclusion to _ Holy Crap, What’s The Big Deal?! _ Also available on audiobook.
- Court won’t halt human-rights case over Social Justice 12 [Vancouver SUN]
- Social Justice 12 human rights application is ‘premature,’ court rules [Abbotsford News]