News Agencies – November 23, 2011
At Marc Garneau Collegiate Institute in Toronto, a few dozen interested parties attended a discussion on religious accommodation within the Toronto District School Board. This may have the perverse effect of reigniting a debate that had died down since the summer, when a tiny group of angry Hindus objected to Muslim prayer services being conducted on Friday afternoons in the cafeteria at Valley Park Middle School, just across the street from Garneau C.I.
Jim Spyropoulos, who is the TDSB’s coordinating superintendent, inclusive schools, student, parent and community, laid out the rationale: Students were leaving school to go to mosque on Fridays. Some weren’t making it there, and some weren’t making it back – and were a disruption to the other students if they did return. The Guidelines and Procedures for the Accommodation of Religious Requirements stipulates that “where possible, schools should allocate space for congregational prayer.”
The Globe and Mail – July 6, 2011
The Toronto District School Board says it is meeting its obligation to accommodate students’ religious beliefs by allowing an imam to lead students in prayer on school property. The board came under fire this week when a Hindu raised objections to Friday Muslim prayer sessions, which have been held inside a cafeteria at Valley Park Middle School in Flemingdon Park for about three years. The Muslim Canadian Congress also raised concerns that the TDSB is putting the needs of Muslim students above their classmates.
Jim Spyropoulos, superintendent of inclusive schools for the board, said that parents and teachers at the school came up with an arrangement that would enable the more than 300 observant students at the school to attend prayer without leaving school property and missing class time. A spokeswoman for the board said the prayers are entirely run and paid for by the Valley Park community.
“In a school where there is such a high concentration of Muslim students, this was the best solution that avoided compromising instructional time,” said Mr. Spyropoulos.