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Toronto Catholic District School Board

TCDSB Policy Register 
Religious Accommodation
 
Date of Review:
 
 2012/11/14
 
 
 
 
 
Cross Reference:
Catholic Equity and Inclusive Education Policy H.M. 24
Ontario Ministry of Education Policy/Program Memorandum 119, Developing and Implementing Equity and Inclusive Education Policies in Ontario Schools
 
 
Purpose:
This Policy recognizes that religious accommodation provisions are designed to promote a respectful learning environment for all members of the Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB) consistent with the exercise of the Board’s denominational rights under section 93 of the Constitution Act, 1867, and as recognized in section 19 of the Ontario Human Rights Code. The policy identifies the types of accommodations schools can reasonably provide to students and outlines the conditions under which a student’s religious beliefs would be accommodated.
 
Scope and Responsibility:
The policy extends to staff members, students and their families while in attendance at school or engaged at other TCDSB events. The Director of Education, with the assistance of Supervisory Officers and Principals, are responsible for this policy.
 
Alignment with MYSP:
Living Our Catholic Values
Fostering Student Achievement and Well-being
Strengthening Public Confidence
 
Financial Impact:
Generally, there is no significant financial impact.
 
Legal Impact:
Policy/Program Memorandum 119 requires school boards to develop an equity and inclusive education policy which, among other things, includes a guideline on religious accommodation in accordance with the Ontario Human Rights Code.
 
Policy: 
The TCDSB is committed to the values of freedom of religion and freedom from discriminatory or harassing behaviours based on religion, and will take reasonable steps to provide religious accommodations within the legal and denominational rights afforded the Catholic school system as per Section 93 of the Constitution Act of 1867. Such accommodations will be provided to staff members, students and their families.
 
Regulations: 
1.   The TCDSB supports freedom of religion and an individual’s right to manifest his or her religious beliefs and observances.  The right to freedom is not absolute, and religious accommodation in TCDSB is carried out in the larger context of the Catholic education system and denominational rights of Catholic schools.
2.   The TCDSB will, at all times, seek to accommodate an individual’s right to freedom of religion in a manner that not only respects the individual’s beliefs, but the principles of the Catholic Church.
3.   It is understood that all students registered in TCDSB schools acknowledge that the school community proclaims, celebrates and cherishes its Catholic identity and traditions and that staff will teach the curriculum from a Catholic perspective.  At the same time, the school is enriched and is committed to providing an environment that is inclusive, safe and free of barriers based on religion.
4.   In respect of religious accommodation, TCDSB acknowledges that all students, in accordance with what the Catholic Church offers in its social teachings and reflective practice, are entitled to their rights and responsibilities under the Ontario Human Rights Code.
5.   TCDSB will work cooperatively and take all reasonable steps to provide accommodation to individual requests from students to facilitate his/her religious beliefs and practices.
 
6.   Areas of religious accommodation include, but are not limited to:
 
a)   school opening and closing exercises;
b)   leave of absence for Religious Holy Days;
c)   prayer;
d)   dietary requirements;
e)   fasting;
f)    religious dress;
g)   modesty requirements in physical education; and
h)   participation in daily activities and curriculum.
 
7.    Chapels in Catholic schools are specifically designed and furnished in the Catholic tradition for prayer and liturgy, and are not to be considered multi-faith chapels. The chapel is open to all people for individual silent prayer or meditation, but it is not appropriate for non-Catholic liturgies or group prayer to be held in the chapel. In following the general custom of the Roman Catholic Church, non-Catholics are welcome to join in prayers services and liturgical celebrations of the Catholic Church community, while honouring restrictions, such as sharing Holy Communion.
 
8.   Should the need arise, the principal, in consultation with the Chaplaincy team leader, will designate another appropriate space within the school other than a chapel for religious celebrations held by other Christian denominations or faith traditions.
 
9.   Religious Accommodation with respect to elementary students will be made so that it applies to elementary schools consistent with the Admission Policy. 
 
Definitions:
Constitution Act, 1867, Section 93
The general Act created the Dominion of Canada in 1867, and provided powers to the provinces to exclusively make laws for education. Those denominational rights granted to separate (Catholic) schools prior to the Constitution Act would be guaranteed.
 
Ontario Human Rights Code, Section 19
While the Human Rights Code prohibits discrimination and provides equal treatment for all people in Ontario with respect to a number of categories, Section 19 recognizes that the Code will not be construed to adversely affect any right or privilege respecting separate schools enjoyed by separate school boards or their supporters under the constitution Act, 1867 and the Education Act. 
 
Evaluation and Metrics:
1.           Implementation of the religious accommodation policy is the responsibility of the school principal in consultation with the Area Superintendent.
 
2.           The consistent application of religious accommodation requests will be monitored and reported in an annual report to the Board of Trustees.
 
3.           TCDSB staff will consult with other Catholic school boards in Ontario with respect to their implementation of religious accommodation policies.
 
 
Religious Accommodation 
Archbishop Collins speaks to Religious Accommodation in Catholic Schools 
Archbishop Collins :  An excerpt  from his  address ‘the Catholic Christian Vision of Equity and Inclusivity’ February  24 2011 with regard to Religious Accommodation. 
‘Within our schools, we need to welcome people of diverse communities. In our secondary schools, this may mean people of different religious traditions, who seek education in a Catholic School because they recognize and value an educational vision centred on the primacy of God and the dignity of the human person as a child of God. Those who are truly religious are not, in fact at one another’s throats over matters of religion, but respect the religious sensitivities of other religious communities. So in our Catholic schools, we need to be sensitive to the religious needs of those of other faiths, providing, for example, places for prayer according to their traditions, as we trust that others will be sensitive to the needs of our own community of faith, expressed in Catholic Schools, for example, in a chapel focused on the abiding presence of our Eucharistic Lord, and on the celebration of the Holy Eucharist.’ 
Context:
In 1984 with the arrival of full funding  for Catholic Schools open access was granted to all high school students.  Since that time and indeed prior to 1984 Catholic school in Toronto have endeavoured to support students of various faith traditions within the context of our Catholic tradition and values. 
2010 – 2011 DRAFT GUIDELINE
 

The Toronto Catholic District School Board is committed to the values of freedom of religion and freedom from discriminatory or harassing behaviours based on religion and will take all reasonable steps to provide religious accommodations within the legal rights afforded to the Catholic school system. Such accommodations will be provided to staff, students and their families. 
In accordance with the Social Teachings of the Catholic Church, the Toronto Catholic District School Board believes in the dignity of all people and their equality as children of God.  The Board recognizes the importance of freedom of religion and strives to recognize, value and honour the many customs, traditions and beliefs that make up the Catholic community.   
Freedom of religion is an individual right and a collective responsibility.  The Board commits to work with the community it serves to foster an inclusive learning environment that promotes acceptance and protects individuals from discrimination and harassment on the basis of their religion.   
In accordance with the practices of the Catholic Church, it is the policy of the Board to provide, in all its operations, an educational environment which promotes and supports diversity within its Catholic community, as well as the equal attainment of life opportunities for all students, staff, parents and other members of that community. 

All school boards exist within a broader context of law and public policy that protect and defend human rights.   
The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (Section 15) guarantees freedom of religion.  The Ontario Human Rights Code (the “Code”) protects an individual’s freedom from discriminatory or harassing behaviours based on religion.  Consistent with this legislation is the Education Act, its Regulations and policies governing Equity and Inclusion in Schools:  
PPM No 108, “Opening or Closing Exercises in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools”,
R.R.O. 1990, Regulation 298, “Operation of School-General” s 27-29, under the heading “Religion in Schools”
PPM No. 119, “Developing and Implementing Equity and Inclusive Education Policies in Ontario Schools”. 
The Board and its staff are committed to the elimination of discrimination, as outlined in this Federal and Provincial legislation, in a manner which is consistent with the exercise of its denominational rights under section 93 of the Constitution Act, 1982 and, as recognized in section 19 of the Code. 
The Board recognizes, and is committed to, the values of freedom of religion and freedom from discriminatory or harassing behaviour, based on religion, through its human rights policy, equity and inclusive education policy, the safe schools policy and curriculum documents.  All of these will be informed by, and interpreted in accordance with, the principles of the Code. 
This Policy reflects the Board’s fidelity to Canadian law protecting freedom of religion in accordance with the Catholic Church’s teachings.  

II.    DEFINITIONS  
1.      Accommodation
 
The Ontario Human Rights Commission’s Policy on Creed and the Accommodation of Religious Observances defines “accommodation” as a duty corresponding to the right to be free from discrimination: 
The Code provides the right to be free from discrimination, and there is a general corresponding duty to protect the right: the “duty to accommodate.”  The duty arises when a person’s religious beliefs conflict with a requirement, qualification or practice.  The Code imposes a duty to accommodate based on the needs of the group of which the person making the request is a member.  Accommodation may modify a rule or make an exception to all or part of it for the person requesting accommodation. 
(Policy on Creed and the Accommodation of Religious Observances, Ontario Human Rights Commission, October 20, 1996, pg. 5) 
The duty to accommodate is an obligation that arises when requirements, factors, or qualifications, which are imposed in good faith, have an adverse impact on, or provide an unfair preference for, a group of persons based on a protected ground under the Code.  The duty to accommodate must be provided to the point of undue hardship.  In determining whether there is undue hardship, section 24(2) of the Code provides that reference should be made to the cost of accommodation, outside sources of funding, if any, and health and safety requirements. 
2.   Creed
 
Creed is interpreted by the Ontario Human Rights Commission’s 1996 Policy on Creed and the Accommodation of Religious Observances as “religious creed” or “religion.”  It is defined as a professed system and confession of faith, including both beliefs and observances of worship.   
The existence of religious beliefs and practices are both necessary and sufficient to the meaning of creed, if the beliefs and practices are sincerely held and/or observed. 
 
Creed does not include secular, moral, or ethical beliefs or political convictions.  This policy does not extend to religions that incite hatred or violence against other individuals or groups, or to practices and observances that purport to have a religious basis, but which contravene international human rights standards or criminal law (Policy on Creed and the Accommodation of Religious Observances, Ontario Human Rights Commission, October 20, 1996, pg. 2). 
3.    Undue Hardship
 
Accommodation will be provided to the point of undue hardship, as defined by the OHRC (for example in the Policy and Guidelines on Disability and the Duty to Accommodate). A determination regarding undue hardship will be based on an assessment of costs, outside sources of funding, and health and safety. It will be based on objective evidence.  For more information about the evidence needed to prove undue hardship, see Human Rights at Work, p. 133-134 and Appendix E.   
A determination that an accommodation will create undue hardship carries with it significant liability for the Board.  It should be made only with the approval of the appropriate Supervisory Officer or, where appropriate, the Board of Trustees. 
Where a determination is made that an accommodation would create undue hardship, the person requesting accommodation will be given written notice, including the reasons for the decision and the objective evidence relied upon. The accommodation seeker shall be informed of his or her recourse under the Board’s Equity and Inclusive Education Policy and Anti-Discrimination Policy and Procedure, and under the Code.  
Where a determination has been made that an accommodation would cause undue hardship, the Board will proceed to implement the next best accommodation or will consider phasing in the requested accommodation.

 
 
The purpose of this guideline is to ensure that all Board staff, students, parents and other members of the school community are aware of their rights and responsibilities under the Code with respect to religious accommodation.  It also sets out the Board’s procedures for accommodation and the responsibilities of each of the parties to the accommodation process.  In accordance with the Equity Strategy, the Code and OHRC’s Guidelines on Developing Human Rights Policies and Procedures, it is intended that the accommodation process, as well as the accommodation itself, be effective and respectful of the dignity of accommodation seekers.
 
The Board is committed to providing an environment that is inclusive and that is free of barriers based on creed (religion).  Accommodation will be provided in accordance with the principles of dignity, individualization, and inclusion.  The Board will work cooperatively, and in a spirit of respect, with all partners in the accommodation process. 
1.    Accommodation Based on Request
 
The Board will take all reasonable steps to provide accommodation to individual members of a religious group to facilitate their religious beliefs and practices. All accommodation requests will be taken seriously.  No person will be penalized for making an accommodation request.
 
The Board will base its decision to accommodate by applying the Code’s criteria of undue hardship, the Board’s ability to fulfill its duties under Board policies and the Education Act.   
When concerns related to beliefs and practices arise in schools, collaboration among school, student, family, and religious community is needed in order to develop appropriate accommodation.  It is the role of the Board and its staff to ensure equity and respect for the diverse religious beliefs and practices of students and their families and other staff in the school system.  However, school administrators should not be placed in the position of monitoring a child’s compliance with a religious obligation, and enforcing such practices, e.g. wearing a head covering is not the responsibility of the school or the Board.   
2.      General Procedures for Religious Accommodation
 
a.      Staff
The person requesting accommodation should advise the administration at the beginning of the school year, to the extent possible.  If September notice is not feasible, the person should make the request as early as possible. 
The absence of employees due to religious observances should be granted as determined by this policy and the appropriate collective agreement.
b.      Students
Students must present written notice from their parents/guardians specifying their accommodation needs relating to religious observances, including holy days on which they will be absent from school.  This notice should be made enough in advance (preferably at the beginning of each school year) to ensure that scheduling of major evaluations, such as tests, assignments or examinations, and field trips takes the religious observances into consideration. 
Student handbooks and parent newsletters should include information about the procedure to follow to request an accommodation for religious observances and/or holy days.  Such procedures shall be easy for staff, students and parents to understand.
 
c)      Unresolved Requests
 
Despite the Board’s commitment to accommodate, an individual may feel that discrimination based on religion has occurred.  The Board will take reasonable and timely steps to address the unresolved issues raised by the affected person, which could include dispute resolution mechanism. 
d)      Areas of Accommodation 
For many students and staff of the Board, there are a number of areas where the practice of their religion will result in a request for accommodation on the part of the school and/or the Board.  These areas include, but are not limited to the following: 
                                            i.            School opening and closing exercises;
                                          ii.            Leave of Absence for Religious Holy Days;
                                        iii.            Prayer;
                                        iv.            Dietary requirements;
                                          v.            Fasting;
                                        vi.            Religious dress;
                                      vii.            Modesty requirements in physical education; and
                                    viii.            Participation in daily activities and curriculum;
 

This policy will consider each (of the above stated) area of accommodation in turn. 
1.      School Opening and Closing Ceremonies
 
Pursuant to the Ontario Ministry of Education Policy/Program Memorandum No. 108 (“Memorandum No. 108”), if a student or parent/guardian objects to all or part of the opening or closing exercises due to religious beliefs, the student will be exempted and given the option not to participate and to remain in class, or in an agreed upon location, through the duration of the exercise.  
Memorandum No. 108 states the following: 
1.      All public elementary and secondary schools in Ontario must be opened or closed each day with the national anthem.  “God Save the Queen” may be included.
2.      The inclusion of any content beyond “O Canada” in opening or closing exercises is to be optional for public school boards.
3.      Where public school boards resolve to include, in the opening or closing exercises in their schools, anything in addition to the content set out in item 1 above, it must be composed of either or both of the following:
a.       One or more readings that impart social, moral, or spiritual values and that are representative of our multicultural society.  Readings may be chosen from both scriptural writings, including prayers, and secular writings;
b.      A period of silence.
4.      Parents who object to part or all of the exercises may apply to the Principal to have their children exempted.  Students who are adults may also exercise such a right. 
These requirements will be interpreted in accordance with the Code and the Board will consider other requests for accommodation as may be made. 
2.      Absence for Religious Holy Days
 
The Board affirms and values the faith diversity in our Catholic secondary schools.  Section 21(2) (g) of the Education Act provides that a person is excused from school attendance in observance of a “holy day by the Church or religious denomination to which he/she belongs.” 
 
All staff and students who observe religious holidays in accordance with section 21(2) (g) of the Education Act may be excused from attendance, subject to the particular request for religious leave process. 
The Board will encourage members of diverse groups to identify their religious holy days at the beginning of each school year. The Board will make reasonable efforts to acknowledge the different observances of their school community when planning programs and events, such as Board-wide tests and examinations.  To the extent possible, conferences, meetings, workshops, co-curricular activities and exams/tests, will not be scheduled on these significant faith days: 
 
(Examples of) Significant Holy Days:
Bahá’í
Ridvan
Buddhist
Lunar New Year/Chinese
Western Christian
Christmas
Solemnity of Mary Mother of God
Good Friday
Easter Sunday
Eastern Christian
Christmas-Feast of Nativity
Good Friday (Ukrainian)
Holy Friday(Orthodox)
Hindu
Diwali
Islam
Eid-ul-Fitr
Eid-ul-Adha
Jewish
Rosh Hashanah (2 days)         
Yom Kippur
Passover (first day)
Sikh
Baisakhi
 
 
(A multi-faith calendar will help schools make appropriate accommodations.  A calendar of Significant Holy Days should be made available and be inserted into student handbooks for each September.)    An excellent resource for schools would be the Scarboro Missions on Kingston Rd.   
Guidelines for Administrators  
All staff and students who request to observe a religious holy day should be allowed this right without having to undergo any unnecessary hardship.  
Staff requesting a leave should advise the school administration at, or as close as possible to, the beginning of the school year and leave should be granted in accordance with the terms of the appropriate collective agreement. 
Students requesting a leave should give written notice from their parent/guardian to the school at, or as close as possible to, the beginning of the school year. Such procedures should be easy to understand and follow. 
Student agendas will contain information, and school newsletters and announcements shall, in September, include information about the procedures for requesting leaves. 
All staff members acting on behalf of/representing the Board on other organizations, which in partnership with the Board are planning events or activities that involve students and/or staff of Board schools, have the responsibility to bring this procedure to the attention of these organizations.  
Unresolved Requests 
a.   Employee  
In the event that, after an employee’s consultation with his/her Superintendent of Education, unresolved issues remain, then the matter will be referred to the Superintendent of Human Resources. 
b.   Students
 
In the event that a student maintains that his or her rights under the Board’s religious accommodation policy have been compromised, then the matter will be referred to the appropriate School Superintendent. 
3.      Prayer
 
The Board recognizes the significance of prayer in religious practice.  Board schools will make reasonable efforts to accommodate individuals’ requirement for daily prayer by providing a location within the building for students and staff to participate in prayer.  This may mean a quiet space in the library, an empty room, or wherever it is mutually satisfactory for the school and the student or staff member requesting the accommodation.  Adult presence should be for supervision purposes only. See also Section IV, Limits to Religious Accommodation.
 
4.      Dietary Restrictions
 
The Board is sensitive to the different dietary restrictions of various religious groups.  Such sensitivity includes attending to issues related to the menus provided by catering companies, snacks in elementary schools, and food provided within schools, at school-sponsored activities and community events. 
Breakfast and lunch programs in both secondary and elementary schools will consider relevant dietary restrictions in their menu planning.  Availability of vegetarian options is recommended as a form of inclusive design. 
Special attention needs to be given to overnight outdoor education activities, as well as field trips that extend over a mealtime period.
 
5.      Fasting
 
The Board is sensitive to religious periods of fasting.  Board schools will endeavour to, within limits of supervision, provide appropriate space, other than cafeterias or lunchrooms, for individuals who are fasting in religious observance.  The Board recognizes that students who are fasting may need exemptions from certain physical education classes and Board schools should make reasonable efforts to provide appropriate accommodations. 
6.      Religious Dress
 
“Dress Code” is the appropriate dress established by a school, and may include a school uniform.  
The Board recognizes that there are certain religious communities that require specific items of ceremonial dress.  The Board understands that some religious attire, which is a requirement of religious observance, may not conform to a school’s Dress Code.  Board schools will reasonably accommodate students with regard to religious attire.  Religious attire is not cultural dress; it is a requirement of religious observation.   
Religious attire that should be reasonably accommodated in Board schools includes, but is not limited to: 
o      Head covers: Yarmulkes, turbans, Rastafarian headdress, hijabs;
o      Crucifixes, Stars of David; and
o      Items of ceremonial dress. 
Special attention must be given to accommodations necessary for a student to participate in physical education and school organized sports.  Where possible, these should be incorporated into Board policies as part of an inclusive design process.  (see item #7 below) 
The Board seeks to foster an atmosphere of cultural understanding in order to be proactive in addressing potential harassment about religious attire.  Schools should be aware that harassment about religious attire is one of the most common types of harassment and bullying.  The Board and its schools will not tolerate any teasing directed at, or inappropriate actions taken against, an individual’s religious attire and there will be appropriate consequences for individuals who violate this rule.  
There are religious communities that require specific items of ceremonial dress which may be commonly perceived as contravening Board policies, for example the use of the Kirpan by Khalsa Sikh students.  For specific guidelines on the accommodation of Khalsa Sikh students wishing to carry a Kirpan, please see Appendix “A.” 
7.      Modesty Requirements for Dress in Physical Education Classes
 
The Board recognizes that some religious communities observe strict modesty attire in respect of their religion.  This can become a matter of concern when students are asked to wear the clothing used in physical education activities. Such policies should be designed inclusively, taking into account common religious needs that may exist. 
If a family has concerns that cannot be addressed through inclusive design, the school should discuss the modesty requirements with them, and, taking into consideration the Ministry of Education’s mandated expectations in the physical education curriculum, provide reasonable accommodation. The curriculum requirements should be explained to the family so that it has sufficient information to understand the physical education curriculum and to select available curriculum alternatives.   
8.      Participation in Daily Activities and Curriculum

The Board will seek to reasonably accommodate students where there is a demonstrated conflict between a specific class or curriculum and a religious requirement or observance.  Where academic accommodation is requested, the school should have an informed discussion with the student’s parents/guardians to understand the nature and extent of the conflict.   
The school should make it clear during the discussion that its role is to protect students and staff from harassment and discrimination because of their religion and cultural practices. Where these conflict with the school routines, activities or curriculum, the school should consider accommodation.  It cannot, however, accommodate religious values and beliefs that clearly conflict with mandated Ministry of Education, Board policies, or the Catholic faith.
 
It is important to note that when an individual requests an accommodation related to the curriculum, the accommodation applies only to the individual in question and not to the whole class or to classroom practices in general.   
The Ministry of Education recommends substitutions when there are exemptions requested related to specific curriculum (Ontario Secondary Schools, Grades 9-12, Program and Diploma Requirements). 
In general, the Board recommends an informed, common-sense approach to questions of religion and curriculum.  Hopefully, these questions can be solved by an open discussion between the teacher, the student and his/her family.  

  1. The Board supports freedom of religion and an individual’s right to manifest his/her religious beliefs and observances.  The right to freedom of religion, however, is not absolute and religious accommodation in the Board is carried out in the larger context of the Catholic education system and denominational rights of Catholic schools.
 
  1. The Board, at all times, will seek to accommodate an individual’s right to freedom of religion in a manner that not only respects the individual’s beliefs but the principles of the Catholic Church.
 
  1. Chapels in Catholic schools, are specifically designed and furnished for prayer and liturgy within the Catholic tradition and are not to be considered multi-faith chapels.  Following the general custom of the Church, non-Catholics are welcome to join in prayer services and liturgical celebrations of the Catholic Church community (keeping in mind some restrictions, such as taking Holy Communion).  Such a chapel is open to all people for individual silent prayer or meditation.  However, it is not appropriate that non-Catholic liturgies or group prayers be held in this setting.
 
  1. It is therefore recommended:
 
                    i. that school administrators, in consultation with the school’s chaplain, designate another space or classroom, other than the chapel, for religious celebrations celebrated by other  Christian denominations or faith traditions; and 
                  ii.   that Catholic school boards consult with their respective local Ordinary on such accommodations. 
V.     MONITORING OF RELIGIOUS ACCOMMODATIONS
 
1.   Tracking of religious accommodations will take place so there is consistent application of the religious accommodation guideline.
 
 

 
GUIDELINE FOR KIRPAN ACCOMMODATION 
A Kirpan is a ceremonial sword that must be worn by all baptised Khalsa Sikhs.  The Board seeks to accommodate Khalsa Sikhs who wear a kirpan under the following conditions as follows: 
o      At the beginning of the school year or upon registration, the student and parents/guardians must report to their respective school administration that they are Khalsa Sikhs and wear the five articles of faith, including a Kirpan.
 
The principal, in consultation with the student and his/her parents/guardians, will develop appropriate accommodations to allow the student to wear the Kirpan while ensuring the safety of others.  These may include the following conditions subject to any changes in the law as a result of any decisions made in the Supreme Court of Canada:
 
o      The Kirpan is six inches or less.
o   The Kirpan will be sufficiently secured with a stitched flap so it is not easily removed from its sheath.
o   The Kirpan will not be worn visibly, but under the wearer’s clothing.
o   There is notification in writing to the principal by the parents/guardians and student and, where possible, from the Guardwara (place of worship), confirming that the student requesting accommodation is a Khalsa Sikh.
o   Students under the age of eighteen must be accompanied by parents/guardians when discussing the rules regarding the wearing of a Kirpan. 

 
 

 
STUDENT HANDBOOK INSERT ON
RELIGIOUS ACCOMMODATION IN THE TCDSB 
The TCDSB is committed to the values of freedom of religion and freedom from discriminatory or harassing behaviours based on religion and will take reasonable steps to provide religious accommodations within the legal rights afforded the Catholic school system. Such accommodations will be provided  to staff, students and their families. 
The TCDSB  supports freedom of religion and an individual’s right to manifest his or her religious beliefs and observances. The right to freedom of religion, however, is not absolute and religious accommodation in the Board is carried out in the larger context of the Catholic education system and denominational rights of Catholic schools.  
The Board, at all times, will seek to accommodate an individual’s right to freedom of religion in a manner that not only respects the individual’s belief’s but the principles of the Catholic Church.  
It is understood all students registered in school name acknowledge that the school community proclaims, celebrates, and cherishes its Catholic identity and traditions.  At the same time  school name  is enriched and is committed to providing  an environment that is inclusive, safe and that is free of barriers based on religion.   With respect to Religious Accommodation, the TCDSB also acknowledges that all students, in accordance with the best of what our Catholic Church offers in its social teachings and reflective practice, are entitled to their rights and responsibilities under the Ontario Human Rights Code. 
In the spirit of respect and inclusion, the TCDSB will work cooperatively and take all reasonable steps, to provide accommodation to individual requests to facilitate his/her religious beliefs and practices. 
Areas of Accommodation include, but are not limited to: 
1.      School opening and closing exercises
2.      Leave of Absence for Religious Holy Days
3.      Prayer
4.      Dietary Requirements
5.      Fasting
6.      Religious Dress
7.      Modesty requirements in physical education
8.      Participation in daily activities and curriculum 
  • Significant dates of Faith Days are to be included in each school calendar.
 
Chapels in Catholic Schools are specifically designed and furnished for prayer and liturgy with the Catholic tradition and are not to be considered multi-faith chapels. Following the general custom of the Church, non Catholics are welcome to join in prayer services and liturgical celebrations of the Catholic Church community (keeping in mind some restrictions, such as sharing Holy Communion.) Such a chapel is open to all people for individual silent prayer or meditation. However, it is not appropriate that non-Catholic liturgies or group prayer be held in this setting.  
Should the need arise school administrators, in consultation with the chaplain,  will designate another appropriate space or classroom, other than a chapel for religious celebrations celebrated by other Christian denominations or faith traditions.
Please note that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (section 15)  guarantees freedom  of religion. The Ontario Human Rights Code  protects individual  freedom from discriminatory  or harassing behaviors based on religion. Consistent with this legislation is the Education Act, its Regulations and policies governing Equity and Inclusion in Schools.  
The Board and its staff are committed to the elimination of discrimination as outlined in this Federal and Provincial legislation in a manner consistent with the exercise of its denominational rights under section 93 of the Constitution Act, 1982 as recognized in section 19 of the Ontario Human Rights Code.
 

 
Source Documents for Religious Accommodations Guidelines
 
 
 
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