So Why Doesn’t the Chilliwack School Board Fire Barry Neufeld?

Barry Neufeld has a long history in British Collumbia education as a school tustee with bizarre ideas, but those ideas were supported in the last civic election in Chilliwack by 9,000 voters, which got him a seat, again, at the SD 33 Board table – second highest vote tally in a field of seven. A search online turns up pages or articles about him, so you can find those yourself. Below are a few of them.

And below those is my reply to long-retired Superintedent Geoff Johnson ‘s province-wide musings on January 2 about why the Chilliwack Board can’t fire Neufeld, though Johnson thinks, patonizingly, that it’s due to Trustee naivete and timidity: “…locally elected trustees, many of whom have little or no experience with any form of government, always seem reluctant to take such a step. The moral of the story is that if boards of education are to maintain the respect of their communities, or, for that matter, survive politically at all and continue providing local communities with access to the governance and possibilities of public education, difficult decisions need to be made.”

Geoff. They’re “reluctant” because it’s illegal.

And this is a good thing. Giving a majority of Trustees on a School Board the power to fire one of their elected members would be entering very dangerous territory in terms of democracy.

Nov 21/2020 : B.C.’s education minister is calling for the resignation of Barry Neufeld, a Chilliwack school trustee who recently called the the publisher, editor and reporter of the Chilliwack Progress newspaper “retards” in a damning Facebook post that was changed and then retracted.

October 16, 2018

This Man is Probably The Worst School Trustee in British Columbia

Neufeld is running as part of a campaign to repeal British Columbia’s SOGI 123 initiative, an initiative aimed at protecting young people from homophobic and transphobic bullying.But he also has a penchant for other bizarre and controversial views on topics ranging from depressed women to anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. {Don’t miss the cure for depression n women. Must-read.]

September 29, 2018       I’m at 29 seconds into the video. Video is on many news sites. 

VIDEO: SOGI 123 protesters clash at B.C. Legislature

Jan 20/18: “The Chilliwack School Board has officially asked their fellow trustee, Barry Neufeld, to step down.”

Ok, so, my explainer:

As an elected Board of Education Trustee for SD61 Greater Victoria), I can’t let Geoff Johnson’s comments on school boards (“Chilliwack case”, January 3, 2021, buried in “the Islander”) and his musing about the “reluctance” of Boards of Education to fire one of their elected members go unchallenged. I am speaking as an individual, not for the Board or for any other Trustee in SD61 or elsewhere.

Johnson refers to the BC School Act and “other guides to Trustee behavior” that should help Boards of Education address objectionable Trustee behaviour. The major document to refer to is the BC School Act. The BC School Trustees Association relevant document is password protected behind a “members only” portal, inaccessible to the public.

Johnson wonders why the Chilliwack Board doesn’t fire Trustee Barry Neufeld for his numerous objectionable statements. You might wonder, too – unless you are one of the nearly 9,000 people in that school district who voted for him and support his views. Let’s look at why he can’t be fired. It’s not “reluctance of naïve board members”. The Chilliwack Board and the Minister of Education have asked him to resign. Neither can compel that.

The BC School Act, Division 2 (32) sets out Trustee qualifications: 18 or older, Canadian citizen, resident of BC for at least 6 months, not disqualified by law.

Division 2 (33) gives reasons for disqualification: is already an employee of a board, failure to make oath or affirmation of office, unexcused absence from board meetings for 3 consecutive months, disqualified under the Local Elections Campaign Financing Act, disqualified under Local Government Act, or a person who holds office as a regional trustee of a francophone education authority.

Division 6 of the School Act (53) specifies reasons for removal of a Trustee: conviction for an indictable offence, conviction for unauthorized expenditure,  a decision of the Supreme Court on the application of an elector of the school district that the conviction of the trustee for any other offence renders the trustee unsuitable to perform the duties of a trustee, and conflict of interest in money related matters. If the court determines that a Trustee knowingly used the office for personal benefit, the court must declare the office of the trustee vacant, and may, if the contravention has resulted in financial gain, require the person to make restitution.

Part 6, Division 1 (70) says “A majority of the trustees present at a meeting of the board may expel a trustee from the meeting for improper conduct.” That’s not the same as “firing”. And that’s one meeting. And who defines “Improper conduct”?

Stay with me for Part 9 of the BC School Act, Divisions 2 and 3: they set out what may happen if the Minister of Education intervenes in a Board’s business. Among the actions the Minister may take is appointment of an “official trustee’ to relace the entire elected Board. I watched the Official Trustee in action in Cowichan SD69 when the Cowichan Board was fired in 2012. It was disturbing to watch one person make a motion and that same person  cast the one vote to carry it. History has a few examples of frightening efficiency, and although on a small local scale, an appointed – not elected – “Official Trustee” in action as overseer of a public body  and appointed replacement of a democratically locally  elected body is unsettling to observe.

In addition to the BC School Act, every school board develops its own Bylaws and Policies that come to the Board table for a vote in  public meetings. Bylaws address how the Board functions. District Bylaws cannot override the School Act. A Bylaw or Policy cannot create process to  fire a democratically elected Trustee, as the School Act does not allow dismissal of a Trustee except for the reasons above.

Contrary to what Johnson states, Trustees on Board of Education are not “reluctant” to fire a Board member. They can’t. What they can do by majority vote after discussion (usually in a secret meeting) is censure a Trustee, which may take various punitive forms, but cannot take the form of prohibition of attendance and voting at public meetings. Also contrary to Johnson’s musings about using Robert’s Rules of Order to fire a trustee, an elected school trustee  cannot be “expelled from the organization” , ie. the School Board, using Robert’s Rules, as, although Boards use Robert’s Rules to provide a framework for conducting business, Robert’s Rules do not override the Provincial School Act.

It is extremely condescending for a long-retired school Superintendent to accuse Boards of Education of being  hesitant, unsure of themselves,  and reluctant to take action.

The Chilliwack Board has censured Trustee Barry Neufeld publicly, and removed his ability to attend committee meetings. A majority of the Board has asked for his resignation. That is the extent of action available to the Board.

Diane McNally (B.Ed., DipFren., MBA) has worked in public education for 35 years, and was elected for a third term to the School District 61 Greater Victoria Board of Education in 2018




About Diane McNally