And says it’s no problem. How many more school-cum-mosques are there in Canada? via TheRecord – Accommodating student prayers not a problem at local high school
KITCHENER — The principal of one of the region’s most multicultural high schools says it is no problem to accommodate Muslim students who need to pray at school.
And Jim Woolley, principal of Forest Heights Collegiate Institute, said it doesn’t use up any resources, either.
It doesn’t use up any resources? Really? And even if it didn’t, is that Canada’s new criteria for allowing Islamic prayers in school?
The students — between three and 12 of them, are overwhelmingly from the English Language Learners program at Forest Heights. That’s a special program for immigrant teenagers who are still learning English as they go through high school.
The students pray on Friday afternoon, after school is over at 2:30 p.m. The office staff unlock a classroom for their use. They pray together for 30 to 50 minutes, and don’t require supervision.
“We trust them,” Woolley said.
As the students leave the classroom, they pull the door shut and it locks automatically, Woolley said. They stop by the office to let the staff know they’re heading home. And that’s it.
“It’s been very straightforward,” said Woolley.
After the request was made, the school worked with an immigration settlement worker and with a local imam — a Muslim religious leader — to determine what the appropriate response would be from the school.
The students could go straight from school to a local mosque to pray, but making the classroom available is “a convenience we provide for them,” he said.
The province requires that schools accommodate students’ religious needs. This group of Muslim students is the only one that has asked for accommodation, Woolley said.
Forest Heights has the largest English Language Learners program in the public board, with 300 students enrolled out of a total high school population of about 1,500.
The issue of accommodating religious beliefs of students has come up in the headlines, with a middle school in York Region under criticism after it was learned the school brought in an imam who conducted services for hundreds of Muslim students in the school cafeteria.
The principal of that school took that action as a way of keeping students at school. They were leaving school on Friday afternoons to pray at the mosque and not all were returning to school afterwards.
Meanwhile, in Waterloo Region, a local school trustee has said it’s important to accommodate all religions equally. She says there’s a danger of a double standard in which Christians are denied the opportunity to express their religion at school, but non-Christian groups are accommodated.
Cindy Watson of Cambridge has said she is concerned about the board frowning on the idea of lunch-hour Bible study clubs, or discouraging parents and children from referring to Christmas at school.