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Group targets ads

Parents' Voice takes aim at school district campaign

A group of parents upset by the Burnaby school district's anti-homophobia policy is now criticizing its spending on advertising.

Parents' Voice spokesperson Gordon World claimed that the school board spent nearly $5,000 of taxpayers' money on recent newspaper ads stating: "We promote respect, understanding and acceptance."

"What you have created, however, is the opposite. (Policy) 5.45 has resulted in disrespect of parents, misunderstanding and lack of acceptance," World said. "It's divisive. If anything, it's creating animosity between and amongst groups."

Parents' Voice is an ad hoc group that formed in opposition to policy 5.45, designed to protect staff and students from homophobic bullying.

The ad which ran in the Burnaby NOW states that "Burnaby schools take extra care to make sure all students feel welcome in our schools, regardless of their language, culture, national origin, religion or sexual orientation."

District superintendent Claudio Morelli said the ad was in the works in March, before the policy controversy erupted.

"The advertisements are always related the school district activities," he said. "(It's) part of a larger campaign to celebrate the diversity of the people and the education opportunities in our school."

World also questioned statements made by school trustee Ron Burton at the June 14 board meeting, where the policy was passed unanimously. Burton referenced the Aaron Webster case, where a group of men beat and killed the gay man a decade ago. Two were from Burnaby and two were underage at the time of the attack.

"(They) went down to Stanley Park with no other reason than to beat up a gay man. They killed him. One child was 17. Maybe if we had this policy in place when he was young, he wouldn't have thought he had the need to do that," Burton said in the meeting.

World said the courts concluded it wasn't a hate crime. However, one of the four men was acquitted, and three were found guilty of manslaughter. Only one of those three manslaughter cases was found to be a hate crime.