Do school boards violate the rights of homosexuals when they prohibit books thought to be detrimental to children or in conflict with the beliefs of parents?
B.C. Supreme Court proceedings on that very question were completed July 10, in a case brought forward by two gay teachers, a parent, and a student. The decision is now in the hands of Justice Mary Saunders.
The case arose from the decision of the Surrey School Board to ban the use of three books involving same-sex parents for use in kindergarten and grade one classes—Belinda’s Bouquet, Asha’s Mums, and One Dad, Two Dads, Brown Dads, Blue Dads. The board’s decision has been strongly supported by Surrey parents, but fiercely opposed by education minister Paul Ramsey, and a group called Gay and Lesbian Educators of B.C.
In its defense, the board filed 65 supporting affidavits from experts in the field of child development. The lawyer for the complainants, Joseph Arvay, has argued that the book ban “is tantamount to a wholesale indictment of all gay and lesbian professional resources.”
Although the books in question do not mention the words “gay,” “lesbian,” or “homosexual,” many parents are concerned that the overall message of the books will contradict the family values with which they are bringing up their children.
In an article in its July 13 issue, BC Report magazine quotes U.S. child development authority Dr. William Coulson, who believes that “the presentation of certain activities as normal can contradict values taught at home, leaving children insecure…”
Mary Pollack, a member of the school trustees committee which made the decision to exclude the books, was present at the court proceedings. Pollack reports that Arvay presented his case “in a mocking tone,” with “bravado,” in contrast to the school trustees’ lawyer, John Dives, who presented his case with dignity and respect.
In the fall of 1996, Justice Saunders overturned a ruling of the B.C. Court of Appeal which found the provincial government’s “bubble zone” legislation unconstitutional. As a result of her ruling, the NDP’s no-protest zone around B.C. abortion centres was re-instated.
Justice Saunders’ decision is not expected for two months, but whatever the verdict, perhaps the greatest concern of pro-family British Columbians is that the government will simply do as it pleases, by placing the banned books on a resource list, effectively overruling the school board.
They also fear the NDP might dissolve the board, just as they dissolved the province’s elected community hospital boards and replaced them with appointed regional bodies, to rid the boards of pro-lifers.