While Bill 13 and Bill 14, regarding bullying, are being considered in the Legislature by the Standing Committee on Social Policy, an Islamic Sunday school using space in a Toronto District School Board school has been accused of anti-Semitic teachings.
The press has reported that the Toronto District School Board has indicated that it will make a decision regarding whether or not to allow the Sunday school to continue to use space once the police investigation is complete.
Bill 13, if passed in its current form, would require school boards entering into an agreement with any other entity for the use of school space to “include in the agreement a requirement that the person or entity follow standards that are consistent with the code of conduct.”
Could this requirement to follow standards consistent with a code of conduct infringe on rights of freedom of speech? Arguably, there will be competing rights, for example religion and gender equality.
Interestingly, Bill 13 does not require the entity to follow the school board’s code of conduct per say, but only to follow standards that are consistent with the school board’s code of conduct. Perhaps this language is intended to assist with competing rights, but use of the word ‘consistent’ could make it more difficult for school boards to make a determination about the use of their space as they are forced to become arbitrators of what qualifies as consistent.
It may be easy enough for school boards to include language into their Community Use of Schools policies, procedures and agreements, but school boards will also need to consider a process for addressing concerns, one that allows complaints, is procedurally fair, but not too complicated or onerous. Given that many school boards have hundreds of agreements for the community’s use of their schools, adjudicating issues could become difficult.
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