Chilliwack Teachers Association Respond to Recent Ableist Slurs re: Neufeld & Fergason

Chilliwack – At a Special General meeting on Tuesday, November 24, 2020 the membership of the Chilliwack Teachers’ Association (CTA) passed a motion calling for the resignation of Barry Neufeld, recommending that the Chilliwack Board of Education censure Darrell Furgason and lobbying the Minister of Education to enact legislation to provide a code of ethics for trustees, including a mechanism to remove individual trustees in extraordinary circumstances.

In a media release to FVN and chillTV:

CTA President Ed Klettke said the motion was based on a pattern of posts over the past three years culminating in some recent posts that included ableist slurs. “Lively debate is one thing, but making ignorant and offensive statements as an elected official is very inappropriate,” said Klettke. The most recent posts criticized three Chilliwack Progress staffers using the “r” word.

First, we want to share our confidence in, and respect for, Chilliwack Progress staffers Paul Henderson, Jessica Peters, and Tara Hiebert. They are dedicated and professional journalists who are not afraid to stand up for decency and fairness and to speak out against bigotry and narrow-mindedness. The Chilliwack Progress is the oldest and one of the most successful community papers in BC, and part of that success comes from the courage not to shy away from controversy.

There is no place in the public school system for language that is offensive, outdated, insensitive and demonstrates a complete lack of understanding and respect for students and families. Hurtful slurs have no place in the inclusive classrooms of today or in a respectful and caring learning community. Our entire school community needs to support the safety and education of all Chilliwack students. Public schools in BC open their doors to all students. The Chilliwack Teachers’ Association strives to make sure our schools are safe, inclusive, and welcoming for all children, youth, and families.

Public school trustees are elected to represent all members of the community and should not use offensive terminology that negatively impacts groups of our population. The CTA is calling for the resignation of Mr. Neufeld based on his most recent comments and his history of inappropriate and offensive posts. This would be a short term solution to this situation. Mr. Furgason’s attempt to defend these comments highlights a similar lack of understanding and led the CTA to recommend that the Board censure him. It has become clear that a long term solution is also necessary and this led to the decision of the CTA membership to lobby the Minister of Education to make changes to the School Act. “It is unfortunate that there is currently no mechanism to remove an individual trustee in an extraordinary situation”, stated Klettke.

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