By Patrick B. Craine
SIMCOE, Ontario, June 23, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) – As part of continuing efforts by Ontario’s schools to promote “equity and inclusive education,” a southern Ontario school board has removed references to Judeo-Christianity from their board policy on moral education.
The Simcoe County District School Board approved the changes at a meeting in May, with opposition from only two of the 12 trustees – Peter Beacock and Debra Edwards.
“The Education Act references Judeo-Christian morality,” Edwards told Simcoe.com. “There’s a question in my mind of what is the great urgency for us as a school board to remove it without any consultation?”
The previous policy, last revised in 1975, read in part: “The Board believes the whole teaching program should be based on the principles of Judeo-Christian morality. The Board expects the teaching staff to set, by example, the highest possible standard for the students for whom they are responsible.”
The new policy, in contrast, emphasizes a respect for religious pluralism. “This policy establishes that moral education must recognize and address the significant and increasing numbers of families from a multitude of ethno-cultural heritages and a corresponding variety of faiths and beliefs,” the new policy reads.
The board had considered rescinding the policy in the fall, but opted to reflect on the issue further. Superintendent Lindy Zaretsky told the Barrie Examiner that when staff looked at the approach taken by other boards, they realized they had all replaced their moral education policy with policies on character education or equity and inclusive education.
“Boards are recognizing the diversity of our student populations and families everywhere in Ontario,” she said.
Trustee Jodi Lloyd explained that the revision aligns with the board’s efforts to implement the Ministry of Education’s Equity and Inclusive Education Strategy.
“All our policies have to be representative of all of our students,” Lloyd told the Barrie Examiner. “This is a step to address that. We're a publicly funded education system with students of all faiths and backgrounds, and we need to be inclusive of all of them.”
Under their equity strategy, launched in April 2009, the Ministry has mandated that every Catholic and public school board in the province develop an equity policy outlining their commitment to inclusion based on grounds such as religion. The boards are further expected to revise all policies and practices to align with this commitment to “equity.”
The strategy has met with criticism from pro-family leaders in particular because it also requires boards to recognize sexual orientation as grounds for non-discrimination – regardless of the board’s moral traditions on the subject.
“This policy encompasses Judeo-Christian morality in its wording,” suggested Lloyd. “We haven't removed the principles of that.”
But Edwards disagreed, insisting that the board should not scrap “the little standards of morality” that they have. “With multiculturalism and other religious beliefs, it doesn’t require us to throw out our beliefs. It’s a case of throwing the baby out with the bath water,” she told Simcoe.com.
See related LifeSiteNews.com coverage:
Ontario Gvmt to Host Symposium on “Equity” for School Trustees