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'It will be very disturbing': Educators gear up for planned protest over gender policies in schools

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Local teachers' unions and education officials are growing concerned about a planned protest Wednesday morning in London, Ont.

It’s one of several across the country by groups opposed to gender affirming practices within the school curriculum.

“It will be very disturbing for a number of teachers,” said Craig Smith, local president of the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario Thames Valley. “We’re advising that they speak with their school principal to ensure that there’s a plan of safety, if they’re feeling unsafe in their workplace. We’re also asking our teachers to make sure that the students and their colleagues are well because we know this kind of situation can be very triggering.”

The group Our Duty Canada is staging so-called ‘1 Million March 4 Children’ protests across Canada Wednesday morning, including one planned outside the Thames Valley District School Board headquarters on Dundas Street East in London.

The demonstrations are to protest gender-affirming policies adopted by school boards.

The protestors, supported by several right wing organizations, will be met with counter protestors. The Ontario Federation of Labour is also organizing members to oppose the event outside the school board.

Ontario Secondary School Teachers of Ontario Thames Valley Local President John Bernans told CTV News London some of its members will be taking part.

He said it’s their job to support all students.

“Supporting students through their decisions around gender expression is an important part of helping young people in their right to self-determination,” said Bernans. “So our members certainly are going to be supporting students, in particular those who feel targeted by tomorrow’s protest.”

Bill Tucker, the former Thames Valley District School Board director of education, now educates teachers at Western University’s Faculty of Education.

He said while teachers find themselves navigating the ever-changing social and political landscape, the basics haven’t changed.

“The main thing for teachers is to focus on what’s best for the kids in front of them,” advised Tucker. “Under the Education Act, teachers and principals and all education workers are responsible for the safety and the well being of students. That’s what they need to focus on, creating that safe environment for everybody. Take the politics, and keep them outside the walls of the classroom, and focus on the kids.”

The school board said it is not commenting publicly on the protest until the event actually transpires.

In the meantime, security plans are being put into place with the London Police Service now confirming they too will have a presence at the board office Wednesday morning. Police are also considering local road closures, depending on how the protest plays out.

 

UNION OFFICES VANDALIZED AHEAD OF PROTESTS

In a statement from CUPE on Tuesday afternoon, three of the frontline education workers’ local union offices were vandalized on Monday night “by transphobic bigots who have been emboldened by Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Education Minister Stephen Lecce in the last three weeks” ahead of Wednesday’s planned protests.

Reports have been filed with London police and evidence has been turned over.

“Vandalism is a classic tactic of intimidation that has been used against organized workers and oppressed peoples by mobs that oppose freedom, equality, and justice the world over,” CUPE’s Ontario School Boards Council of Unions President Laura Walton said in the release.

She added, “Tomorrow, frontline education workers will stand up to those who are spreading hate. Together, we will continue to fight to ensure that our public schools are safe spaces for all. 

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