VANCOUVER, BC June 22, 2011 – Parents of public school students can arrange for the exemption of their children from classes or exercises that are offensive to their moral or religious convictions across the curriculum.  That message was delivered to all school boards in the province earlier this month by the Catholic Civil Rights League.

The letters state that, despite the Corren Agreement and official Ministry of Education policy, “school districts have a duty to accommodate objecting families to the point of undue hardship, by such means as student exemptions and alternative delivery of curriculum if need be.”

Sean Murphy, a director of the League, says that the real policy of the Ministry is that accommodation by alternative delivery is possible in all subjects.  This is revealed in internal e-mails and letters obtained through access to information requests.  An article on the League’s website backs up the assertions with links to key documents.  He also points to Burnaby School District 41, which formally offers alternative delivery of science curriculum for those with cultural, religious, or ethical objections to animal dissection.

“The Ministry has not quashed the Burnaby policy, said Mr. Murphy, “and it won’t, because the Ministry’s real policy is that school districts are free to arrange for such accommodation.”
Mr. Murphy believes that the less-than-candid statements from the Ministry of Education and Ministry of the Attorney General have misled school trustees, administrators and teachers.  He is concerned that this is likely to complicate conflicts between parents and school authorities.

“Some Burnaby parents are insisting upon alternative delivery in any subject if teachers use curriculum to preach the moral acceptability of same-sex conduct and relationships,” he notes.  “Teachers and principals who have been misinformed as to the Ministry of Education’s position on accommodation may think that this is not possible.  If they refuse common-sense accommodation, like that offered by the policy on animal dissection, litigation may follow.”

Murphy issued the League news release following reports of the developing controversy in Burnaby about alternative delivery.  

The League’s message to school boards was also delivered to all BCTF local presidents, district parent advisory councils, and professional associations involved in the administration of the public school system.

For further information:

Sean Murphy, CCRL Director, Western Region
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