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Sexual orientation debate rears its head in Richmond trustee election

The SOGI policy was passed by the board of education in 2017, and the Diversity, Inclusion and Equity policy passed in spring 2022.
Dean Billings is running for school trustee in the municipal election.

One Richmond trustee candidate would like to revisit the school district’s Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) policy and the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) working group's recommendations.

Dean Billings, who has filed his nomination papers as a candidate for the Richmond Board of Education, said the SOGI policy should promote “self-acceptance and anti-bullying without teaching gender affirming pseudoscience.”

Furthermore, Billings’ election platform claims to promote sexual-health “safety” education, saying that sex education should “fully explain the risks of puberty blockers to children and parents.”

The SOGI policy was passed in a 6-1 vote by the Richmond Board of Education in 2018 after several raucous public meetings where people spoke both for and against the policy.

Support for the policy was informed by research that shows those with gender dysphoria (not identifying with the sex they were born with) who aren’t supported have higher rates of suicide and depression.

In fact, Scientific American looked at research, focused on 30,000 people, that overwhelmingly showed those who had “gender-supporting care” had better mental-health outcomes.

Voting against the policy was Jonathan Ho, who said more time was needed for consultation. Then-trustee Alice Wong, who is running in this election under the Richmond Community Coalition, told media after the vote that she opposed SOGI but voted in favour “by mistake.”

As for the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion working group's recommendations, which the board of education approved this past spring, Billings thinks they should focus on “low-status males at risk of suicide, drug addiction, and political extremism.”

Billings describes “low-status males” as those at risk of becoming NEET – “Not (in) education, employment or training” – or incels (involuntarily celibate).

To “modernize” the DEI policy, Billings said “aggressive anti-racism content and philosophy” should be removed from learning materials, and elementary-level “anti-racism content must provide positive messages for any reader.”

Billings told the News one of the examples of non-positive messages being used in Richmond schools is the book Not My Idea, which appears to be available at four Richmond elementary school libraries.

The book talks about systemic racism and “whiteness” – the concept of privilege afforded to white people versus biases towards people of colour, which could make white children feel less than.

He also states in his platform that “pseudoscience” shouldn’t be allowed “even if ‘inclusive.’”

The DEI policy was created and passed by the board of education after Bakau Consulting did an audit of the school district on racism and bullying.

Its report noted inappropriate jokes and stereotyping were “regular, frequent occurrences in school” and that “some students also reported feeling marginalized, unsafe, unheard, and discriminated against.”

At the time, board chair Sandra Nixon told the News that “there is still a culture in our schools where we need to do a lot of work.”

Billings has an MBA and has worked as a software project manager and business analyst.

The municipal election for mayor, eight city councillors and seven school trustees takes place Oct. 15. The deadline to submit nomination papers is Friday, Sept. 9 at 4 p.m.

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