"Judge rules inclusion and equity come before individual religious accommodations in public education." Hamilton Spectator

Monday, November 28, 2016

Hamilton dad loses fight to pull kids from school over “false teachings”



Barry Gray,The Hamilton Spectator
Father: Steve Tourloukis
Hamilton Spectator

A Superior Court judge has rejected a Hamilton dad's fight to be warned in advance about what he considers to be "false teachings" so he can pull his kids out of class.

Steve (Eustathios) Tourloukis wanted to be alerted by Hamilton's public school board anytime a long list of topics he considered an attack on his Greek Orthodox religion came up in lessons.

In turning down the request, Justice Robert Reid also refused to declare parents have the final authority over the education of their children in a ruling last Wednesday in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in Hamilton.

The ruling puts inclusion and equality before individual religious accommodations in public education and in a diverse society.

Reid said allowing Tourloukis to "isolate" his children from aspects of the curriculum would be conflicting with "competing legislative mandate and Charter values favouring inclusivity, equality and multiculturalism."

Some Christian groups call the decision a blow to parental rights while advocates of the province's anti-bullying legislation see it as a victory.

"This is a landmark decision removing parental authority when it comes to the education of the children," said Charles McVety, president of the Canada Christian College, which helped fundraise for Tourloukis' legal fees.

"It should be most troubling to every parent because this will be a case used as precedent … For me, it's a dark day for children and it's a dark day for parents when special interest groups supersede the rights of a parent to protect their child."

But others see it as a win for Ontario's Equity and Inclusive Education Strategy, which led to new policies across the province — including in the Hamilton Wentworth District School Board — to remove biases and barriers to ensure all students feel welcomed and accepted.

"It's definitely a step in a positive direction," said Maya Roy, executive director of Newcomer Women's Services Toronto.

Toronto sexual health educator Stephanie Baptist said, "I'm not OK with one person's religious accommodation trumping another person's human rights.

"We're all different and our public system must make it safe for all of us. It is by participating in that learning that all students grow up with that open-hearted acceptance of folks of all different backgrounds so we can live together in this pluralist society."

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