SOGI Presentation Follow Up Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):

We strive to make ACS a safe place for all students, and in our experience, marginalized students sometimes need extra support. It is ACS’s desire that no student is bullied for any reason, including their sexuality, gender identity, or any other struggle they are going through. In our anti-harassment policy, we already have included other minorities and have added sexual orientation and gender identity to it as this has become a reality of our student population. We have a moral and legal obligation to ensure the safety of all students. In Canada, we have laws that protect sexual minorities from harassment and discrimination, and as a school board we have a fiduciary duty to ensure that our policies line up with what is required by law within Canada. In June 2017, the Canadian Human Rights Act was updated to include “gender identity or expression” (Bill C-16). We have an extra layer of legal protection as a religious institution, but the law is increasingly less sympathetic to religious rights. We have received recommendations from legal counsel to review our policy through a legal lens and to be proactive in policy writing rather than reactive when a situation arises. These legal recommendations are not yet public, but we will be sharing them when they become public.

No student or staff member will be reprimanded for not using an approved request for preferred pronoun and/or preferred name change in a respectful context. If staff members cannot in good conscience use preferred pronouns or names, such staff will be supported to come up with alternative strategies for avoiding the use of preferred names and pronouns when possible. We recognize that there needs to be grace from all parties, and we recognize that this may be difficult. Bullying of either party will not be tolerated.

This already is and will continue to be a difficult conversation. However, ACS is not afraid of difficult conversations. We also want to recognize that the same feelings might arise for a teacher who is aware of, or suspects, students to be involved in pre-marital sexual relationships or whose parents may have had extra-marital relationships or have pursued a divorce.

ACS is committed to upholding the scriptural truths (our “pillars”) in the classroom, and to teaching children how to discern and think critically, showing love, grace, and truth to all. We also recognize that the distress of not being gender congruent (cis-gender), along with disorders of sexual development (ie. intersex individuals), can create at times, is not what God originally desired for His children. It should also be noted that not all intersexed individuals feel that this is a mistake, and some feel that God created them exactly this way for a purpose. Our responses to students wrestling with these incongruences between flesh and heart/mind ought to be shaped by the two great commandments: to love God above all and to love our neighbours as ourselves.

BC School Sports governs policies on who is allowed on what team. This is not an internal decision at ACS—it is decided by BC School Sports. To participate in BC School Sports, we must follow their procedures. For reference, our interpretation of the policy of BC School Sports is that a gender transition is a lengthy and rigorous process that involves multiple layers, and the likelihood of this happening is minute. If another school sends their team to play at or against ACS, we don’t control who is on their team. Their team would be governed by the same BC School Sports policy as we would. Please note that BC School Sports also allows female athletes to participate on male teams when a school does not offer a female team to play on. If at any time, for any reason, our coaches feel that playing a team would have a high likelihood of injury to our players, they have the option of forfeiting or refusing to play.

Internally ACS does not have a gender specific intramural program. 

As a board we are looking at this more closely. We certainly don’t want the concerns on this new policy to get in the way of a partnership between home and school. We are looking at ways to allow families to register their children at ACS, even if they struggle to agree with certain policies.

There are several reasons for this. One being that we felt strongly that the policy required an in-depth explanation and we did not want the policy simply going out to people without context. It’s also an internal policy and not a public facing policy. While it is approved by the board, it is not yet in our official Education Policy Manual. All this said, we have always offered to send the policy to anyone who would like to see it.

We appreciate your concerns about LGBTQ youth suicide rates. ACS shares that concern with you. We firmly believe ACS is the safest place for any student struggling with their sexuality, because at ACS they are surrounded by Christian staff, family, and friends who can walk with them through their messy struggles.

A recent study showed that “transgender and nonbinary youth (ages 13-24) who report having their pronouns respected by all or most of the people in their lives attempted suicide at half the rate of those who did not have their pronouns respected.” Think about Paul’s writing in 1 Corinthians 9:22 in reference to people’s identity and pronouns: “I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.” (CRCNA Biblical Theology of Human Sexuality).

Our policy does not support physical transitioning. Our hope is that by accommodating a non-physical (reversible) request like a name or pronoun change, we can maintain influence in these students’ lives and also keep them at ACS where we can continue to teach them truth with grace. As noted in the presentation, many youth “outgrow” this after puberty, and it’s our desire that in accommodating this non-physical request, we can see them through until they are either past these challenges or have accepted the work of the Holy Spirit into their lives.

Tier 2 Request for Accommodations are accommodations that require parents to make requests on behalf of their student. Tier 2 accommodations are for preferred name change, and/or pronoun change, dress code accommodation, competitive athletics, and field trips. These accommodations are REQUESTS and not guaranteed. Requests only move forward after extensive consultation and counselling. Often pastors and teachers who hold influence in the student’s life are also involved at this point. The formal request for competitive athletics would also require approval from BC School Sports Association. This is more of a heads up for us, that this is being pursued, and would then need to be explained to the family.

As far as “how far is too far,” the Parent Partnership Agreement is very important to us, however the age of consent in BC is 12. We take a stand in stating that we will not accommodate without parent consent, even for students who are above the age of 12. This is a significant stand we are taking which could potentially put our counsellors’ licenses on the line. They are willing to uphold the Parent Partnership Agreement despite the legal implications.

Students who indulge in sins such as pornography or premarital sex are simply acting out of a sinful desire; these acts are not viewed by anyone as part of their identity. Students who are experiencing gender dysphoria don’t necessarily feel that this is a mistake or a sin, and some feel that God created them exactly this way for a purpose. We do not believe this is part of our students’ identities, but they do, and as a result we need to handle this more gently and still with a clear representation of who they are in Christ instead of who their flesh and the world define them as being. Our understanding of, and response to, these disorders ought to be shaped by the two great commandments—to love God above all and to love our neighbours as ourselves.

Although the prevalence is relatively low, we must be just as prepared and ready to receive our sisters and brothers in Christ struggling with gender identity challenges as with any other disorder such as anxiety, depression, eating disorders, etc.

We also believe that Christ is the only cure for sin. He died for us while we were yet sinners, and He is the truth embodied. As Christians we bear each other’s burdens and we show love even while (and especially when) things are messy. Keep in mind that ACS is a school and not a church. We do not have a mandate to call out sin like a church does. A great quote from Tim Keller sums this up: “Salvation belongs to God alone and to no one else. If someone is saved, it is wholly God’s doing. It is not a matter of God saving you partly and you saving yourself partly. No. God saves us. We do not and cannot save ourselves. That’s the gospel.” We also cannot assume to put a timeline on the Holy Spirit’s conviction and transformation of His children.

No. The expectation is that all washroom and changeroom accommodations are private accommodations. Students requesting accommodations will be provided with a private washroom/changeroom for independent use.

Yes, we have consulted with MEI. MEI is a parochial school, and therefore is governed by their supporting Mennonite Brethren (MB) churches and are required to maintain policies that reflect the MB position. At this time, they have not developed policy or procedures to help staff and students navigate these complexities.

Our staff have been asking us for policy and procedures to help them navigate these difficult situations as they are already a reality in our school. Our advice from the Society of Christian Schools (SCSBC) and the Federation of Independent Schools Association of BC (FISA) is that all Christian schools will need, at some point, to include these types of accommodations in their policies.

There was Scripture included in the presentation. One example that was used repeatedly was, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and love your neighbor as yourself.”  Prayer and Scripture reading were and continue to be a part of this process for all involved in writing and approving this policy. Many of the books on our bibliography clearly lay out the truth of our stance on sexuality which is based on Scripture.

The Ministry of Education in BC is looking at independent schools, wanting to see evidence of policy making that demonstrates awareness of the issues rather than the ‘head in the sand’ image we were shown at our SOGI presentation. Independent schools are expected to have policies that protect the dignity of all marginalized students.

Withdrawing from government oversight or funding would signal to the Ministry of Education that we are possibly willing to break the law (Human Rights Act). This is not so much about educational material as it is about basic human rights. Therefore, the Ministry of Education would not simply pull our funding, they would potentially consider closing our doors or dictating and enforcing a policy of their writing on us.

The Gender Identity, Expression, and Dysphoria policy has been passed by the ACS Board due to both moral and legal responsibilities. We have received legal counsel that has stated this obligation and we are awaiting an official statement to pass on. We believe that this is our opportunity to work with our government and find a way forward in a way that fits our biblical viewpoint to avoid future, harsher legislations. The world has proven that we are living in a post Judeo-Christian World. To engage in a culture war with society is not our desired platform. We prefer to maintain a posture of faithful presence as opposed to pounding our fists and demanding that our religious freedoms be protected. Federal and Provincial governments have proven over many years that this style of advocacy (engaging in culture wars) does little to advance a Christian worldview in the broader society.

Our governance structure is predicated on the society trusting the board to make hard and difficult decisions that may at times be something that not all society members can agree with. We recognize this – but we also recognize our duty to the society to make these decisions with thoughtful prayer, wisdom, and Godly insight. Society members in return approve board members to represent them and then trust them in this process.

Recognizing the complexity of this topic, we asked for guidance and feedback from a diverse group of members from our society, including parents and staff, as well as the broader Christian and educational community. After receiving much positive and encouraging feedback as well as critical feedback, the board approved the policy.

As a large independent school, we are indeed often called to lead by example. We believe that Christian schools are the best places for students struggling with their sexuality or gender, and we hope that other Christian schools will love and support the students in their midst as well. We believe that the lengthy process of having the SOGI Advisory Policy Team (SAPT) team develop this policy will be helpful to other schools who will also need to have these difficult conversations with their members, and many schools are entering into these conversations. The SAPT team and Welcome Statement Team were intentionally made up of people who hold diverse views on these topics. As Christians we disagree on so many different things: divorce, Sabbath, baptism, creation and origins, women in church leadership to name a few, however we have freedom in Christ to hold different interpretations of Scripture and yet stay united in our shared identity in Christ.

We do not ask parents to step away from what they believe. This is one reason we have included the Parent Partnership Agreement, so that every parent makes that decision with their child. 

We seek to bring grace up to truth, not to surpass it. Truth has and always will have a prevalent place in our community and school. This is about walking forward with these students from the messy middle into the light of God’s truth and sometimes that means we need to enter into the messy middle with them in order to hold their hand and bring them home. This is our intent; this is our heart.

Yes. The board has the authority to make policy on behalf of its members without presentation. Understanding the complexity of this topic, we felt it was important to engage with the society, which is why we offered a series of presentations with a desire to have society members engage in the hard work of understanding the complexities of this topic, read, and become well informed on our decisions and why we decided as we did.

Policy decisions are not taken to a vote. This is based on our governance structure and applies to every policy.

The Bible is the #1 source document. Every book that we presented was based on the author’s strong faith and interpretation of Scripture that we believed was helpful in our learning journey as a board. We thought it would also be helpful for others who are interested in doing the heavy lifting of looking deeply at experts in this field and drawing on their helpful expertise.

As is mentioned on TransRights BC, religious rights only go so far to protect us, which is why we need a policy in place. We do understand the concern of being exploited and have taken steps to be careful in our approach – part of why we have been hesitant to send the policies as a blanket email out to everyone.

We do not see any significant change to the day-to-day operation at ACS due to the implementation of this policy. We aim to provide a safe place for all students and these SOGI challenges are something that’s been a reality at our school for many years. Having this policy allows parents, counsellors, and staff to be a part of a conversation that these kids are already having. 

God’s created order is that man and woman are united in a fruit bearing marriage. This gets distorted by sin and we see all sorts of distortions of God’s design in the Old Testament. All of them are signs of the curse. When Jesus comes, he redeems all the distortions of God’s design that were brought by the fall. When the church begins to spread in Acts, it includes all people who were previously excluded.

A recent study showed that “transgender and non-binary youth [ages 13-24] who report having their pronouns respected by all or most of the people in their lives attempted suicide at half the rate of those who did not have their pronouns respected.” Think about Paul’s writing in 1 Corinthians 9:22 in reference to people’s identity and pronouns: “I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.”  (CRCNA Biblical Theology of Human Sexuality)

Christians can use preferred pronouns and names without agreeing or affirming that this is God’s design for this child. Using their preferred pronouns and names is a sign of respect, not a sign of affirmation or agreement with what this person is choosing.

The Vancouver Archdiocese is the only one we are aware of so far although we have given verbal information of others from legal counsel, and we are pursuing these leads further. There are other schools that are dealing with this, but at this time it has not gone to a legal battle.

We are accountable to making sure that ACS is a safe place for all students. We are a school and not a church. Our welcome statement says, Abbotsford Christian School is a Christ-centered community of people who believe that diversity is a part of God’s design and enriches our community. We strive to reflect Christ. Recognizing our imperfection, we aspire to be a place of belonging and safety. Through authentic connections, we commit to the communal task of creating a culture of grace, dignity, respect, and truth. 

We have received legal counsel. In Canada we have laws that protect sexual minorities from harassment & discrimination, and as a school board we have a fiduciary duty to ensure that our policies line up with what is required by law within Canada. In June 2017, the Canadian Human Rights Act was updated to include ‘gender identity or expression’ (Bill C-16). We have an extra layer of legal protection as a religious institution, but the law is increasingly less sympathetic to religious rights. We have received recommendations from legal counsel to review our policy through a legal lens and be proactive in policy writing rather than reactive when a situation arises. To date, we are still awaiting this legal counsel to turn into an opinion that we can share with others. When we receive this, we will pass this on to those interested.

We are a member of the Society of Christian Schools in BC (SCSBC), and we take much advice and support from them. They are leaders in British Columbia in terms of their work with Christian schools. Our school takes advice on all things educational from them. We have benefitted from this advice and support since the 1950’s. However, we also completely are autonomous; they are an umbrella organization to ACS and we hold them accountable to the work and support they provide. SCSBC has created guiding SOGI documents and frameworks so that schools can do their own hard work well. They also work with many other Christian schools that are having these same conversations. We are all learning from each other.

They are providing us with the support we request. They have not created this policy and will support other schools should they wish to land elsewhere on their own policies.

Further to this, SCSBC is one of five umbrella organizations in BC that comprise the Federation of Independent Schools in BC (75% of which are faith-based) or FISA.  We also have received important advice from FISA specific to this work regarding SOGI.

No, accommodations are not accepted according to our community standards. All staff sign this document. We have received advice that there are other places in the world where schools who have refused to have policies in place to ensure safety for all students, who are now fighting to retain the right to not hire staff that identify as LGBTQ+. There is reason to believe that if we were to choose to not have a policy that allows for accommodations for students; we may be legislated to implement such a policy for our staff.

We have an orthodox view of homosexuality. We believe that it is a sin; God’s design for marriage is to be between one man and one woman for life, and that sex is only to happen within that marriage relationship. This can be found in our SOGI position statement – Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity policy.

We continue to uphold our orthodox interpretation of Scripture (as shared in our pillars that was presented at our meeting) as biblical truth and will teach this at ACS. We seek to bring grace up to truth, not to surpass it. Truth has and always will have a prevalent place in our community and school. This is about walking forward with these students from the messy middle into the light of God’s truth and sometimes that means we need to enter into the messy middle with them in order to hold their hand and bring them home. This is our intent; this is our heart.

Our students experience contradictions between other orthodox interpretations of Scripture and lived experiences in other ways. For example:  divorce, and our community has managed to navigate this well.

We will be communicating with all society members to share details about the policy. We emailed the whole ACS society on a number of occasions with policy updates/notes. The SOGI information was shared in the board updates in the e-Messenger newsletter during past three years. Additional emails were sent out three times since March 2022 with invites to meetings). The SOGI Presentation meetings this spring was the board’s attempt at providing context to our work.

The meetings were meant to provide the society with a view of what and how the board has been navigating this difficult topic and share how we are walking alongside our students who are wrestling with SOGI in their own lives. We tried to limit the number of people who signed up so we could honour everyone’s time and have a small and intimate setting that was safe, so we could answer everyone’s questions. When we recognized there were more questions after the open forum, we stayed to answer them personally afterwards. At all but the last meeting, we provided a place for society members to share their questions on sticky notes on whiteboards. Many of those questions are reflected in this FAQ.

In addition, our intent was never to fully answer all questions with each presentation. It was most importantly meant to inform and engage our community in a conversation regarding SOGI affected students and encourage families to do their own work in understanding the complexities of the topic.

We are still working on our curriculum, so we do not have the details yet. We will be basing the curriculum on our SOGI position statement and the pillars we presented in our presentations. However, parents are always welcome and encouraged to know and understand everything that is presented in the classroom.

In cases where endangerment is suspected, and the involvement of parents is refused and accommodation is still actively being pursued, ACS will seek the involvement and support of MCFD (Ministry of Children and Family Development) to ensure the students’ safety is a priority.

It should be noted that children who can be proven to have informed consent have the right (legally) to request medical services without their parents’ involvement as early as age 12 and we are hearing of it frequently being as early as age nine. Our legal and medical systems see preferred pronouns and preferred name changes to be within this realm of autonomous decision making. We, as a school, have chosen to continue to uphold the parental agreement and desire to have the parents involved prior to discussing a potential name change or pronoun change.

Christians can use preferred pronouns and names without agreeing or affirming that this is God’s design for this child. Using their preferred pronouns and names is a sign of respect, not a sign of affirmation or agreement with what this person is choosing.

A recent study showed that “transgender and nonbinary youth [ages 13-24] who report having their pronouns respected by all or most of the people in their lives attempted suicide at half the rate of those who did not have their pronouns respected.” Think about Paul’s writing in 1 Corinthians 9:22 in reference to people’s identity and pronouns: “I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.”  (CRCNA Biblical Theology of Human Sexuality)

Our school represents families from 50 different churches. Each church will be navigating SOGI in their own way. There are many different scriptural references and interpretations which will make it impossible for us all to agree in the same way about how to approach this. We consulted with several pastors of the many supporting churches represented at ACS and received encouragement from them in implementing this policy. Keep in mind that ACS is a Christian school and not a church.

In addition to the above, many denominations have prioritized the discussions of human sexuality and have made some landmark decisions over the last number of years. One example of this is the Christian Reformed Church of North America that some of our families are a part of. Their Human Sexuality Report was recently adopted by their governing decision-making body, and we have referenced their work in our list of supporting documents that we have either created or drawn from. We particularly appreciate the language they have provided their churches specific to hospitality.

This is unequivocally a board decision. With all current policies as they now stand, our counsellors are still at risk. This is the challenge of living in a secular world. Based on their employment at ACS, our counsellors are following a path that lines up with our religious rights and freedoms in the context of care, and these SOGI policies support them in their efforts.

This would be an issue that we would need to deal with as a school. ACS has dealt with other challenging topics over the course of its history and although never perfect, we have managed them. There are HR processes and procedures that we would follow if staff members came to a place of disciplinary action.

ACS is committed to upholding the scriptural truths (our “pillars”) in the classroom. ACS is also committed to teaching children how to discern and think critically, showing love, grace, and truth to all. We also believe that having gender dysphoria is not God’s intent. It is not the way it is supposed to be. Our understanding of and response to this ought to be shaped by the two great commandments: to love God above all and to love our neighbours as ourselves.

Yes, this policy will be added to our policy manual (which is accessible on our website) this summer. This has not been added yet because every summer we annually update the policies. This has not been completed yet.