Books with same gender family content approved - Surrey  book banning

 

 

 

 

 

"Let us never turn our back on our children. Let's ensure the next generation of gay and lesbian people have as much respect for each other's race, diversity, ethnicity, and faith, as they do for their dignity of their person as gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual people. Let's make sure that no other generation has to grow up facing the hate that we did."
Glen Murray, Mayor of Winnipeg, June 24, 2003

 

 

 

 

 

Link to our coverage of the Queen's Jubilee Medal being awarded to James Chamerlain (Surrey book banning case)

 

 

 

 

 

Donations needed!

The petitioner's fundraising efforts have taken an enormous amount of time and energy, yet we are still short in excess of $200,000 for which we are personally liable. We desperately need your financial assistance to pay for this litigation. Donations are not tax deductible due to the political nature of this case. We welcome any financial support individuals, unions, businesses, community groups, and corporations can give.

We need and appreciate your financial support. Cheques may be made payable to "GALE-BC" and sent to:

Stop the Book Ban
c/o James Chamberlain
GALE-BC
Box 93678
Nelson Park,
P.O. Vancouver,
B.C.,V6E-4L7

 

 

 

 

 

The petitioners in the case include:

Murray Warren, Coquitlam teacher
James Chamberlain, Surrey teacher
Diane Willcott, Surrey parent
Blaine Cook, Surrey Student
Rosamund Elwin, Author of Asha’s Mums

Notes from the hearing

 

 

 

 

 


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June 26, 2003

Surrey School District Approves Books

Earlier this month, it looked like the Surrey School Board was going to continue to resist following the Supreme Court ruling against banning children's books with same-gender parents. The board rejected books that were referenced in the court case, arguing that the grammar, continuity and certain non-sexual messages did not meet the standards of the board.

Today, James Chamberlain circulated the following note:

Last night, the Surrey School District Standing Advisory Committee on CAPP ( Family Life) approved two books with same gender family content for the Kindergarten/Grade One level.

The books are:

1) Who's In A Family by Robert Skutch
2) ABC A Family Alphabet Book by Bobbie Combs

The committee included 14 voting members consisting of 8 parents, 2 trustees, 2 teachers and 2 principals. It was convened by the Surrey School Board specifically to review sensitive materials under the CAPP (Family Life) Currriculum and make recommendations to the Surrey Superintendent of Schools. The committee representatives were democratically elected or appointed and chosen from their respective partner groups described above. Our task was to review books using an extensive list of very specific local school board and Ministry of Education criteria. The final vote of this committee is not subject to a further vote by Surrey trustees.

The titles considered were brought forward by Surrey School District curricular experts and vetted through their internal processes first and deemed appropriate for review via local and provincial criteria. SSD officials provided support to commitee members in carrying out a review consistent with those criteria.

We voted 13 out of 13 to approve the first book. We voted 11 out of 13 to approve the second book with 2 trustees in opposition.

One committee member was unable to attend and vote but submitted comments in writing on the merits of the books. Local school board policy requires a two thirds margin for approval of any resource in CAPP ( ie 9 or more of 14 votes).

Our written analysis and decision will now be forwarded via district staff to Superintendent Fred Renihan who will make the final decision to approve or not approve of the books as District Recommended Learning Resources. Committee members have been assured he will not overturn our recommendations.

The Surrey Teachers' Assocation and Surrey parents have submitted additional resources on same gender and heterosexual families for consideration by district staff and/or this committee in the fall. Committee members have been assured that this will be an ongoing process of review in the 2003/04 school year.

Have a great Summer!

James Chamberlain
Kindergarten teacher and CAPP Committee Member


December 20, 2002

Supreme Court of Canada Heard
Surrey, British Columbia
Book Banning Case

"Parents may be extremely racist, but we don't prevent the school from teaching that racism is bad."
Justice Clair L'Heureux-Dube, Supreme Court of Canada

"When we depict heterosexual families in children's literature, we don't suggest that it raises the question of whether we, collectively or individually, approve of all the sexual practices between heterosexuals ..."
Juctice Louise Arbour, Supreme Court of Canada

On June 12th the Supreme Court of COne Dat, Two Dads, Brownd Dad, Blue Dadsanada heard the case of James Chamberlain et al vs. the Surrey School District #36. Today, a victory for tolerance and equality was delivered when the court ruled the school board was wrong in banning children's books that depict same-sex parents. The ruling will affect all school boards across Canada.

Case History

It all began back in 1997 when three children's books (Belinda's Bouquet, Asha's Mums, and One Dad, Two Dads, Brown Dad, Blue Dads) were submitted to the Surrey School Board by a gay Kindergarten teacher. James Chamberlain sought approval of the books for use at the Kindergarten and Grade One levels as resources for thLink to Chapters/Indigo to purchase Asha's Mumse Personal Planning curriculum. The books feature children who have two moms or two dads. The parents from Chamberlain's classroom read the books and made a presentation to the school board in favor of their use. Seventeen of twenty families from Chamberlain's classroom signed a petition which they presented to the trustees asking for the books to be approved. The Board refused to allow the books to be used anywhere in the District because there were parents who complained that their religious beliefs would be offended by acknowledging in the classroom that there are children who have same gender parents.

The school board continues to argue that the books are not age appropriate, yet their only objection to the content of the books is that there are same-sex parents portrayed in them. The school board has spent more that $880,000 of taxpayer's money to date to keep these books out of classrooms.

What's at Stake?

A Supreme Court decision in favour of the petitioners has far-reaching implications for educators throughout the country. This case is about teachers' professional autonomy to decide how best to meet the learning needs of all students. It is about preventing school boards from making educational policy and decisions based on the religious persuasions of some members of the community, at the expense of others. Such a decision will send a clear message to school boards across Canada that they must adhere to the principles of a publicly-funded education system, whose purpose is to serve the needs of all within it.

This case also goes to the heart of children's rights to have their realities, including their families, reflected in their schools and in the curriculum. As educators, we have a responsibility to welcome and celebrate every single student's reality in our classrooms.

Comments on the Books

"The main message of them is the acceptance of same-sex families," James Chamberlain told CBC Newsworld on Wednesday June 12th, 2002. "The same-sex parents are actually background characters in the books. The books are very innocuous and they're used in school districts all around the lower mainland, except Surrey, where they're banned."

"As a public-school teacher, my job is to teach about all forms of families, including same-sex families," Mr. Chamberlain said.

"Just as I can't cater to racist beliefs and not talk about people of colour in positive ways because there may be one or two families who are racist within a school community," he said, "I can't cater to homophobic attitudes and beliefs in my classroom either. My classroom needs to be an inclusive place."

A synopsis of lower court rulings is summarized on the website of Gay and Lesbian Educators of British Columbia (GALE-BC) at www.galebc.org On this site you can also find pictures of the banned books by Kindergarten students in Vancouver and their personal thoughts on the book ban.

The ban and subsequent media coverage of the court case have generated a lot of interest in these books. Chamberlain has read them to hundreds of students (at the request of their teachers) in elementary classrooms from Kindergarten to Grade 6 in Vancouver during June 2002. They have led to very rich and honest student discussions about the reality of same-sex families in schools.


Related Links:

Notes from the Supreme Court Hearing - June 12, 2002