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Opinion: Chang defeated by Byng parent backlash

Imagine the utter humiliation suffered by Cheryl Chang, chair of the Lord Byng Secondary School Parents Advisory Council (PAC), Tuesday night at a raucous and frequently angry PAC meeting.

Imagine the utter humiliation suffered by Cheryl Chang, chair of the Lord Byng Secondary School Parents Advisory Council (PAC), Tuesday night at a raucous and frequently angry PAC meeting. It was so heavily attended it had to be moved from the library to the gymnasium.

Lord Byng is located on the West Side out towards UBC. It is populated for the most part by students whose parents are reasonably well-heeled, well-educated and not about to be taken advantage of.

The cause for the overwhelming interest and considerable outrage was an “open letter” Chang had sent off to the Vancouver School Board which started: “I write to you as a parent and as Chair of the Lord Byng Secondary School PAC.” She then went on to attack the board for updating the district’s sexual orientation and gender identity policy.

The school board says its intent is “to provide operational guidelines for school staff working to support a small but also very often isolated and vulnerable group of kids,” most specifically the update deals with those who are transgender.

But Chang said it was “seriously flawed” and “could have long term damaging impacts on children.”

She told school board members that when her letter was circulated she was attacked as being homophobic.

“Let’s call a spade a spade,” she said. “I’m Christian. And are there Christians who are homophobic? Yes. I’m not one of them.”

Now that is a curious assertion given that Chang was a longtime member of St. John’s (Shaughnessy) Anglican Church, one of four Anglican congregations that left the New Westminster Diocese over their opposition to church policy to bless marriages for same-sex couples. She then, in her role as a lawyer was “special counsel” to all the like-minded congregations in Canada that took the matter of control over church property all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada, where they lost.

But I digress.

While Chang had been all over the media from YouTube to CBC radio advancing the same criticism of the school board policy, she had yet to fully inform Lord Byng parents of what she was up to.

She argues on the PAC website there was simply not enough time between finding out about the policy changes on April 13 and the next meeting of the School Board to consider the matter on May 20.

That’s puzzling to parent Hillary Meredith, who says there is the ability to send out a mass email and call a meeting on short notice.

One other point: As parent Julia O’Dwier noted, the policy update document had been floating around for the last two years. It is supported by Vancouver Coastal Health and had input from the District Parent Advisory Council. Chang apparently was out of the loop.

When Chang finally called this week’s meeting, she said attendance would be restricted to parents with proof they had a kid at Lord Byng. I saw no point in trying to get in.

But When Lord Byng students entered the gym, according to parent Rachel Rose, Chang threatened to call the cops: “I saw her berating students. It was bullying. I could not believe it.”

Neither could the three other incredulous parents I spoke to who confirmed Rose’s observations.

In the end though the majority ruled and the students were allowed to stay.

The majority of the people in the room were not upset because they found fault with Chang’s criticism. What irritated them though was expressed to me by parent David Fine: “She was using her position as PAC chair to state her own views.”

In the end the vast majority of parents voted to have Chang withdraw her open letter and write a note of apology to the Vancouver School Board.

Rose observed that Chang’s “humiliation was palpable and well deserved.”

Finally, you may wonder what difference this updated policy will have at Lord Byng. Well, according to the parents I spoke with and Lord Byng guidance counsellor Shelley Sullivan, nothing will really be different. Lord Byng prides itself as a leader in making a safe space for all students and working with students and parents to deal with the complex issues they all face.

agarr@vancourier.com
twitter.com/allengarr

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