Presentation by Mrs. I. El-Sayed on November 10, 1999
Toronto District School Board
155 College Street
Toronto, Ontario M5T 1P6
Good evening everybody and thank you for the opportunity to participate in this initiative. I am here tonight to read my mother's presentation that emphasizes the importance of accountability at all levels in the public education system.
Institutions such as the TDSB serve public interest. When families, children's future and the well-being of society are involved public accountability becomes especially crucial. This is not just democracy but a moral imperative.
The Board's policies, guidelines, practices, leadership, curriculum and school community partnership necessitate accountability in order to ensure a safe and healthy environment where the needs of all children are addressed on a daily basis in the public education system. It is a requirement that the Board's policies and guidelines in practice, not simply ceremonial words, reflect the diverse viewpoints and particular needs of the various communities it serves. A selective approach is indicative of inequity and imbalance in the system that contravenes the spirit of partnership, ethical and professional conduct. This amounts to a very serious violation necessitating immediate corrective actions.
The track record has shown that there are serious concerns about the issue of accountability at all levels of the public school system, especially regarding visible minorities and faith (religious) groups. From my many years of experience in dealing with the education system, parents are not given the opportunity and the respect to be fully involved in their children's education.
Indeed, the needs of some children are consistently being neglected whether due to discrimination, insensitivity or lack of accommodation by the system. This practice occurs on a regular basis with Muslim children, especially as it relates to extra curricular activities the schools promote and facilitate such as dances, Halloween, Christmas, Easter and even Remembrance Day.
The content and materials of such activities contain things that are against our beliefs and our children cannot participate in them. Also in the core curriculum, especially in English Literature and Health materials, teachers do not follow the Ministry's guidelines and they impose their own bias materials and approach without being disciplined.
People in charge should beheld be accountable when dealing with matters of public trust. This makes accountability very crucial in order to ensure that the principle of equity and the right of students to obtain acceptable alternatives are implemented.
All too often, when a parent like myself expresses concerns regarding our children's education and well-being, the staff usually ignores our concerns. When the matter is brought to the attention of the higher authorities, instead of correcting these practices, the situation only gets worse and parents feel frustrated, humiliated in public, stereotyped and labelled as a trouble maker. This is deliberate tactic by the Board in order to divert attention from the real problems in the system.
Parents are systematically discouraged from getting involved in their children's education at the local level. I left at least one school council meeting because of the principal and her staff's malignant discriminatory attitude and resentment towards me.
This situation also happens in the equity committee. Several times attempt was made to belittle, frustrate and discredit me in public in which the staff acts in concert in order to denying the truth and further their own motives and agenda.
When I complained about problems even all the way to the director I usually do not get any response. Whenever I insisted on a response, it does not address the issue and side-steps my concerns that something wrong is taking place. By this attitude, the authority and senior officials strengthen wrongdoing in the system instead of correcting it and preventing its repetition.
My employment was determined this September as an Arabic teacher due to a convenient mistake by the administration in order to do teaching all the time and they get away with it. One time a senior administrative made a joke in public and said he will apply employment practices if I shake his hand, knowing very well that it is against my religious belief to shake hands with non-mahrem males.
It seems that the system punishes the victims and defends, rewards and promotes those guilty of mis-managing and damaging public trust. Unless they are held responsible, the cycles of discrimination will not end and matters would only get worse.
In conclusion, accountability is a necessary part of the public education system. It should be implemented before more harm is done to the public interest.
I sincerely hope that such systematic unprofessional conduct and acts of improprieties which harm the interests of visible minorities and faith groups would be addressed without delay.
I suggest setting up a special commission to look into the merits of such grievances by parents and students and take the necessary actions to correct the situation without delay.
In order to uphold public trust, public confidence has to be also restored. This is where accountability would play a crucial and effective role.
Thank you once again.