This article was submitted to the Publisher of The Ambition as a Community Update (Feb. 2000).
TDMEA CHALLENGES THE TORONTO DISTRICT SCHOOL BOARD ON
HOMOSEXUAL INDOCTRINATION OF OUR CHILDREN
Some parents have the impression that nothing can be done regarding the TDSB’s (Toronto District School Board) adoption of the sexual orientation document or any issue that concerns their children education in the public school system. On the contrary, the matter rests in the hands of the parents to determine what their children are taught. According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: Article 26, Section 3 states: "Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that should be given to their children."
TDMEA (Toronto District Muslim Education Assembly) would like to clarify this misunderstanding that parents are powerless and assure them that the Assembly continues to vigorously explore all avenues to develop effective strategies on an ongoing basis, not only for the sexual orientation curriculum, but for all aspects of public education (curricula and extra-curricula activities) that has an impact on the well-being of our children in the public schools.
As an update, the TDMEA would like to brief the community of what has been done so far and make sure that all parents are aware of the changes taking place in the public education system.
When the Task Group that developed the Human Rights Draft Policy introduced it to the Board on November 10, 1999, the TDMEA was the only organised group from the Muslim Community which made a presentation to the Standing Committee, addressing the community’s concerns regarding public education and Islamic values. The presentation specifically stressed our religious rights as Muslims. In a detailed document, the TDMEA provided the Trustees with Muslim Beliefs and Practices in order to assist the Board in dealing with Muslim students. The manual outlines all areas of concerns that staff should be aware of regarding Muslim children on a day to day operation, and further offered useful suggestions and recommendations in assisting the school to understand and meet the rightful requirements of Muslim students.
Furthermore, the TDMEA, as an active member of the Equity Advisory Committee representing the majority of Muslims in the GTA, expressed the community’s concerns regarding the sexual orientation document before it was brought to the Board. The Assembly, under the principle of equity, further moved a motion for a Faith Policy that was systematically set aside and subsequently turned down three times by the Board. By its actions, the Board boldly ignored Muslim concerns and accelerated its own agenda.
As a result of this attitude the TDMEA started a petition, which was signed by more than five thousand parents. The objective was to get the Board to understand their responsibilities and accountability to parents and respect Muslim concerns.
At this point, the Assembly informed the community at large and explained to the parents their rights and what they could do to protect their children and Islam in the public school system. The Assembly assisted parents in sending letters voicing their concerns to their local school principals, Chair of Trustees, Minister of Education, and the Premier of Ontario.
As a formal body and on behalf of the parents and the Muslim community, the TDMEA also sent letters to the local school principals, Chair of Trustees, Minister of Education, and the Premier of Ontario and held the authorities accountable for addressing Muslim concerns and the safety and well-being of their children in the public schools.
At the end of January 2000, the TDSB sought public input regarding Human Rights and Anti-Harassment Policy. The TDMEA consistently took the opportunity to inform the community at large, as well as played an active role in the public consultation process regarding the policy in question. It also networked with some Muslim brothers and sisters throughout the GTA who gave presentations at all the posted locations. Examples of some presentations are posted on the web site for public interest.
Moreover, the Human Rights Response Form that the TDSB provided for public input was completed in detail by members of TDMEA and is available on our web site in order to assist parents to send a written submission to TDSB prior to the deadline. Alhamdu-lillah, many parents who came to understand the dangers that we are faced with by the Board are now taking the responsibility and playing an active role in their children’s education. They are openly expressing their concerns and views directly to the proper authorities.
In addition, TDMEA has been co-ordinating and networking with non-Muslim groups and individuals that share similar concerns about the public education system. They have expressed support for the position we are taking and concurred with us that the issues are serious and have to be taken up further directly at the level of the Ministry of Education.
Upon the requests of parents, members of the Assembly have been attending school council meetings in order to assist the community in understanding the issues and what steps could be taken through the proper channels to protect our interests. The TDMEA has also intervened to address specific problems that some Muslim children and families have encountered at different schools regarding health curriculum and the manner in which the Board is dealing with Muslim concerns. Moreover, on a regular basis, members of the Assembly attend different community events whenever possible in order to reach out to as many parents as possible. We believe that pubic education to the Muslim community GTA-wide is absolutely essential to safeguard our interests and our children in the public schools in Toronto.
It is imperative that the parents who did not send letters as yet should still do so as soon as possible. The draft letters can be obtained from the major Islamic centers across the City, or at our web site: http://www.tdmea.com. You are free to modify the letters as you see fit; but send them all the same. We further encourage parents to take a more active role at the local level by joining the school councils and be vigilant in what their children are being taught in school.
The Assembly would like to bring to your attention the article you may have read, in Saturday Star entitled, "School board addresses Muslim parents’ concerns." This appears to be a clearly calculated media approach not to ruffle the Board. As formulated, the title is clearly misleading. Although it was nice to see the media covering our issues and some schools and teachers making an "effort to accommodate" us, we are not simply asking for accommodation. Our concerns as a Muslim community regarding parental roles, policies, curriculum, and representation at all levels in the public school system, have neither been addressed nor given equal opportunity by the TDSB. We insist on our rights to be treated with respect and to have our concerns properly addressed by the public schools.
Just last week a school in Scarborough and another in North York introduced ‘sex education’ curriculum to the students and social activities, without consulting or informing parents, even though the Board was requested to inform them as much as it is its responsibility to do so. When the parents complained and one of the schools called for a meeting, the parents were told that their children are in Canada now and should integrate as normal Canadians, that the parents had no choice in curriculum matters.
Moreover, several principals already have indicated to the parents who expressed concerns regarding sexual orientation curriculum that they will implement the Board’s policies regardless of the parents’ concerns, arguing that they have no choice but to implement them. This is a blatant if not malignant contradiction of the rights of parents according to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Unless we speak up and stand for our rights as one united community, our children would be jeopardized by the Board.
As a result of what has been accomplished so far, the TDMEA received a response from the Premier of Ontario regarding sexual orientation and faith policy and directed us to the Ministry of Education. We hope for progress on the issue of faith policy.
However, the Board has already started developing ‘guidelines’ for faith accommodation without involving the faith groups, including Muslims. Moreover, it does not utilise the same procedures used for the sexual orientation document. The staff is developing the implementation plan for the sexual orientation, behind the scenes, that was supposed to be done in the Equity Committee. Therefore, we do not know what these implementation plans will look like. This is deliberate tactic to keep the public in the dark. As Muslims, we cannot take chances with matters pertaining to our children and our religion. We have to stand up for our rights if that is what it takes.
The TDMEA is here to serve you. If you have any concerns or problems with the public education system, please do not hesitate to contact us by phone: (416) 245-0696, fax: (416) 744-4360 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also visit the Assembly’s web site at http://www.tdmea.com that is updated on a regular basis.