There were no disruptive incidents during two protests in downtown Princeton Wednesday, Sept. 20.
RCMP and a bylaw officer observed while a group of people organizing under the umbrella of the nation-wide One Million March for Children opposed sex education and the use of teaching resources that discuss sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI).
They also called for parents to keep their children home from school for the day.
Members of the local pride community gathered across the street, waving rainbow flags and sharing coffee.
The dual protest lasted approximately two hours, with between 10 and 20 people at each protest at any given time and the marchers then taking their signs for a walk on Bridge Street.
From coast-to-coast communities witnessed similar protests and counter protests.
At the B.C. legislature in Victoria, police dispersed approximately 2,500 demonstrators after making at least two arrests and declaring the area ‘unsafe,’ Black Press has reported.
Early on the same day, BC Conservative leader John Rustad issued a press release pledging that if elected he will end the provincially approved SOGI, calling it a divisive failure.
Birch Parlee, a local trans woman, helped organize Princeton’s counter protest with the help of SOS Pride from Penticton.
“It was important that we show up, to make our presence felt, and to show that we are not afraid…For me, the best part was to connect with a larger group of the rainbow community, and that is a good thing that came out of this,” she told the Spotlight.
Stephen McNiven, superintendent of the Nicola-Similkameen School District, said there were no disruptions in the school day for area students. While there was a slight increase in absences at Princeton Secondary School, no notable absences at John Allison Elementary or Vermillion Fork Elementary were recorded.
“Our focus was supporting our students, providing a safe, caring environment and supporting diversity.”
While no protestors showed up at local schools, they did visit the district office in Merritt.
“I had an interaction with them and they had a chance to express themselves and then they carried on with their march,” said McNiven.
The controversial SOGI program is not mandatorily implemented in schools, however teachers are able to use the education materials - it is not its own curriculum – in various ways.
Vice-Superintendent Jane Kempston said use of the materials is age and development appropriate and they often fit in with physical education, language arts and social studies.
In a Grade One classroom, for example, picture books might be used to illustrate how families are different.
“Some families have a mom and a dad who lives at home, and some families have a grandma that looks after (everyone) and some families have two moms,” she explained.
However, in Grade 11, there are opportunities to choose literature that explores the unique stories of other people.
“You would be respectful and open to having kids look at and understand the world.”