Just a quick note that the Peel District School Board, bending over backwards to put the issue to rest, yesterday released a 2-page fact sheet addressing many of the points that have been discussed here previously. I also got a few answers directly from my local trustee.
A few of the facts:
FACT: Trustees have heard and continue to listen to the public regarding religious accommodation.
FACT: There is a significant difference between the Ontario court removal of the Lord’s Prayer and religious accommodation.
FACT: There is no cost or undue hardship in providing accommodation for Friday Prayer.
and one that sounds like an admission to messing this up in the first place by trying to control the content of the sermons:
FACT: Although staff will be supervising Friday Prayer, the board cannot interfere with the practice of the faith.
Whether you agree with what they are required to allow or not, it’s direct and I like how they not only present the facts absolving them of any wrong-doing but end with a example of the contradiction in protesting only in relation to one faith:
It has been frustrating and disheartening to see what is often hatred and prejudice towards a single faith group disguised in a supposed campaign about religion in schools. No one has expressed concern about school-wide celebration of Diwali, or that we provide vegetarian options in food, or post posters acknowledging all major faith days, including Christmas. This is a campaign against Islam — counter to the laws of the Country, the Ontario Human Rights Code, and our board values.
– PDSB “Religious Accommodation: Key Facts” (emphasis mine)
Now, I did contact my local trustee with a few questions, which I think were maybe indirectly answered by the fact sheet. She answered promptly (proving the first fact I quoted above):
Me: 1) Do the participating students leave in-progress school instruction, or is this done during regular school break time (i.e. lunch) when other clubs/activities are held? (i.e. is there the potential to disrupt an in-progress group/team learning activity should they leave.)
Trustee: It is possible that students leave their class during instruction time, during a lunch break, a spare period, or after school depending on the timing of the prayers. There is little or no disruption for students who remain in class. The curriculum continues and those who miss it due to prayer are supported to catch up.
Me: 2) Are there instances where the student prayers are segregated by gender?
Trustee: I do not know whether there are instances of gender segregation. We make a space available to any student who requests religious accommodation, and we supervise the space.
Me: 3) Reading some Board meeting notes I noticed “Director Pontes clarified that the option of student-led prayer is not provided to students of other religions.“, which seems to match what I see in the Operating Procedure document. Am I reading this correctly that students of other religions may not congregate for student-led prayer?
Trustee: Jummah prayers being held in congregation is a requirement of the Muslim faith. Any request for specific religious accommodation is dealt with on an individual basis.