When we talk about education, a “culture of fear” is not a phrase anyone wants to hear. You might expect it in Swat Valley, where Malala Yousafzai was shot by Taliban fanatics for advocating girls’ schooling. Here in Ontario, the phrase seems out of place; and yet, it crops up a frequently in reference to some public school boards.
A report from provincially appointed investigators, released this month, describes “a culture of fear and distrust” within the York Region District school board. Accusations of Islamophobia and racism have dogged the board.
It’s been even worse at the Toronto District school board, where a provincially appointed advisory panel found a “culture of fear” running so deep, some staff were too scared even to talk to them, while several who did broke down in tears.
Astoundingly, these slow-motion train wrecks barely hold a candle to how badly things are going off the rails in Peel.
Some people are very angry with the Peel District school board over religious accommodation — specifically, making space available to Muslim students for Friday prayers. Contrary to misinformation, student reflections are delivered in English, under supervision.
Religious accommodation is not a matter of discretion. It’s the law. The Ontario Human Rights Code supersedes school policy and provincial legislation.
Nevertheless, a recent school board meeting descended into chaos. Protesters tore and stomped on a Qur’an — a desecration as inflammatory as flag-burning. Peel’s board condemned the act and respectfully collected the shreds (more...)