The Peel District School Board has launched a direct, clear set of Key Facts on religious accommodation. The new fact sheet responds to misinformation and errors that have been shared in the community and on social media. The fact sheet will be shared on board social media accounts, all school websites, and sent to School Councils, faith leaders and local politicians.
Notes Janet McDougald, chair of the Peel board, “In recent weeks, we have seen a concerted effort to share deliberate misinformation to counter a known legal requirement to provide religious accommodation for all faiths. That is not acceptable. We take our legal obligations seriously, as we do our board commitment to inclusion. Board trustees and staff have invested significant time listening to the issues raised and responding to public questions and concerns. From this point on, our Key Facts stands as our response.”
The board responded to the major pieces of misinformation or misunderstanding by some members of community with Key Facts including:
• There is a legal requirement for all school boards in Ontario to provide religious accommodation.
• Trustees have heard and continue to listen to the public regarding religious accommodation.
• Religion does have a place in secular schools, if accommodations are requested.
• Friday Prayer does not negatively impact student learning.
• There is no cost or undue hardship in providing accommodation for Friday Prayer.
The fact sheet can be found at www.peelschools.org/aboutus/equity. It will be translated into the top 10 languages spoken by Peel families and posted by next week.
Says McDougald, “We want the public to understand the facts of this issue—not the opinions of some who say they are opposed to religion in public schools, but really are opposed to the practices of a single faith. We are appalled by the anti-Muslim rhetoric and prejudice we have seen on social media, read in emails, and heard first-hand at our board meetings. It has caused some of our students to feel unsafe, to feel targeted. We must not allow hatred toward any faith group to flourish. We will not stand for that. It is not consistent with our board values, with our role as trustees, or for us as Canadians.”
Meanwhile parents, many of whom are South Asian Hindus and Sikhs are resolute in their opposition to accommodation for any religious activity in schools, period. Schools they maintain should be free from religion. Something that seems to be in direct opposition to the accommodation schools are okay offer to any religious group that makes a request.
One parent off the record told this reporter that some parents were thinking of asking for time for their children to pray at school as well just to demonstrate how eventually religion in school could become a problem. – CINEWS