Students Praying in School… why not?

1 Sep

Why do religious groups always feel the need to get their panties in a twist over things that don’t effect them?

The article below looks at a protest happening in Toronto.  The protesters are sticking their noses in a place that doesn’t belong.  The TDSB is a culturally diverse school board, and the schools have a mandate to reflect the cultural make-up of the student body, meaning, if 80% of the students are Muslim then 80% of the staff and extracurricular focus of that specific school should reflect the cultural of those students.  My Muslim students do not want to impose anything on anyone, but they do want the same right to pray during the day as Christians might want to say grace at lunch.  I think what Valley Park has offered it students is a wicked example of our Canadian Mixed Salad theory.  These students are being taught in a public school that accommodates the needs of the students.  If there were schools with 80% populations of any other religion that required children be removed from school, than I would like to think that the community would feel as welcome to suggest an alternative as the families, educators and administrators of this middle school.  Would I condone my taxes paying for religious schooling, like the Catholic School Boards, no.  But that isn’t happening here.

Check out the article…


Groups protest Muslim prayers at Toronto

public school

07/25/2011  | Michael Talbot,

Several faith-based groups protested outside the Toronto District School Board’s headquarters Monday over Muslim prayers taking place in a Toronto school.

For three years, hundreds of students have been praying in the cafeteria at Valley Park Middle School during their lunch hour. The school doesn’t run or pay for the service.

TDSB director of education Chris Spence said the decision to hold the prayer sessions was made in consultation with the school community.

The service is operated by members of the Valley Park community, and was un-opposed by parents of other students at the school before Ron Banerjee, claiming to represent a group called the Canadian Hindu Advocacy, began complaining earlier this year.

“When you have 400 students coming in and out of class…it’s extremely disruptive,” said Banerjee, who organized Monday’s protest. “It’s discriminatory.  It raises lots of questions in terms of ‘Why are Muslims alone being allowed to do this?’ This is part of the Islam-ification of society.”

Members of the Jewish Defence League of Canada and the Christian Heritage Group also took part in the protest.

80 per cent of Valley Park students are Muslim, and the school began the Friday services to prevent students from missing classes to pray at a nearby mosque.

The TDSB defended the sessions, saying it’s simply trying to accommodate the religious beliefs of its many Muslim students, as mandated by the Ontario Human Rights Code.

It said the issue is not one about religion in schools but about religious accommodation.

“We have a predominantly Muslim population in the student body, so the parents were asking for a space where we can provide for Friday prayers,” board trustee, Shaun Chen previously told CityNews.

Banerjee doesn’t buy it.

“If they want to accommodate the Muslim students, they get a one hour lunch break, the mosque is five minutes away, they can just tell them to pack a lunch and during your one-hour break go off to the mosque.”

In the meantime, Canada’s largest Hindu group, Canadian Hindu Network, says the views of the Canadian Hindu Advocacy are not representative of mainstream Hindus.

07/25/2011  | Michael Talbot,


3 Responses to “Students Praying in School… why not?”

  1. angiebirdy September 2, 2012 at 8:20 pm #

    When I went to public school, we were mostly Christian students. Every morning, the Lord’s prayer was recited before classes started. Non-Christian students were given the option of leaving the classroom during the prayer. Then one day, we were not allowed to pray anymore, because of the rights of other religions were ignored, so I understand. I think that was reasonable. So what do the non-Muslim children do in this school? Is their education being disrupted? Do they have the option to go to prayer too? Do they do homework in the meantime? How disruptive is when the Muslim children leave the classroom? How long does it take to come and go? 10 minutes? I need more information before I can form an opinion. I’ll see if there’s more to be said. Thanks for the awareness. In the mean time… maybe the Lord’s prayer should be available in the schools again.

    • The Idealistic Educator September 3, 2012 at 2:29 am #

      Your questions are totally valid and I was curious myself about the actual structure of the day and how the Friday prayers are included. From what I can gather, the nearest mosque is 1.5km from the school and students were not returning and if they were the was pretty much done. So, the Principal had allowed someone from the mosque to come to the school and conduct the prayers in the cafeteria. Since the students were leaving school anyways, I doubt the accommodations are any more distracting than before.

      I come from a pretty narrow minded town (shall we say) and my greatest concern is not that this accommodation sparked so much debate, but that those who were against the accommodations did not want to debate or consider all of the elements that seem to me, made the in school prayers a lesser of both evils. I read in one article, where the author compared prayers to basketball practice, that he was sent to detention for skipping class. Here is what I think the opposition has not considered. Valley Park is a school in a priority area and part of the school improvement program, with a high number of new-comer students, 80% of the student body is Muslim which more than likely means that every Friday, the principal would presumably watch 80% of his student body leave and not return. In a school like Valley Park, the staff are already dealing with having other creative ways to engage their students in school and now with these accommodations a small part of the battle is being won… in my opinion.

      Here is TDSB’s response to the issue…

      Toronto, ON, Friday, July 8, 2011 — There has been a great deal written in the past week about the religious accommodation for Muslim prayers that takes place at Valley Park Middle School from November to May.

      There are very many viewpoints that have been expressed concerning this subject. I wish to make the Toronto District School Board’s (TDSB) position on this issue clear.

      While the TDSB is part of a secular public school system, like other school boards, we exist within a broader context of law and public policy that protects and defends human rights. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects freedom of religion. The Ontario Human Rights Code protects an individual’s freedom from discriminatory or harassing behaviour based on religion. The Toronto District School Board recognizes and is committed to the values of freedom of religion and freedom from discriminatory or harassing behaviour based on religion through our Equity Foundation Statement, Guidelines and Procedures for the Accommodation of Religious Requirements, Practices and Observances, the Human Rights Policy and Procedures, and the Safe Schools Policy.

      The Toronto District School Board takes reasonable steps to provide accommodation to members of religious groups who state that the Board’s operations or requirements interfere with their ability to exercise their religious beliefs and practices. The Board balances its decision to accommodate on several factors such as undue hardship, including: the cost of accommodation to the Board; health and safety risks to the person requesting accommodation and to others; and the Board’s ability to fulfill its duties under Board policies and the Education Act.

      Where religious accommodation is concerned, the law is quite clear: freedom of religion in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms supersedes the Education Act. As a public school board, we have a responsibility and an obligation to accommodate faith needs.

      Here are some facts regarding the law:

      1. Indoctrinating religious instruction is prohibited in public boards.
      2. Non-indoctrinating instruction about religion is allowed.
      3. Scriptural readings from a variety of religions and beliefs, and moments of silence, are permitted during opening or closing exercises.

      One of our primary goals is always to maximize instructional time for our students. We do this entirely within the context of instruction rather than indoctrination in any religion. In this way, we strive to achieve the respectful separation of religious devotion and education within our public schools. That is our legal and moral duty.

      In the case of Valley Park, the school is not teaching the “religious practice.” Rather it is accommodating for the religious and spiritual needs of the students like many other schools do around the country for a number of different faith communities. Providing this religious accommodation does not violate any Board policies since the service is not a Board or school activity.

      There have been concerns expressed that the practice of Islam separates individuals by gender. We do not have the authority to tell faith groups how to pray. The division of the sexes which occurs during the service is a part of the Islamic faith. Students who participate in the prayer services do so voluntarily and with parental permission, and no one is obligated to participate.

      We understand that this is a very sensitive issue for many, and that there will continue to be differing opinions among members of our communities. However, we believe it is the willingness to have courageous conversations like these that has made Canada the diverse yet cohesive society that comes together in Toronto District School Board’s classrooms every day.

      • angiebirdy September 4, 2012 at 5:48 pm #

        Thank you IE. Very valuable information. I am reminded of how good we have it here, in this country and I am also reminded of the tyranny and rigid rules of countries where practicing an unaccepted religion gains horrible repercussions. It is good to know that a student can take the time aside to pray. Prayer restores the soul. And in this school’s situation, I would bet the students are OK with the brief intermission (which may even be beneficial by giving them a chance to catch up with their own thoughts).

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