Catholic Education

TORONTO - Students who suffer concussions should not only be removed from sports but also be excused from class until they heal, according to the Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association (OCSTA).

Bob Murray, the OCSTA director of legislative and political affairs, is urging the Ontario government to include full curriculum exemption into Bill 39. The bill proposes that school boards be required to develop policies to deal with students who suffer brain trauma from concussions.

“You need to be removed from the classroom to let your brain get what is referred to as cognitive rest,” said Murray. “Even the regular classroom can have profound effects on the brain if a person hasn’t received the rest they need. They should be removed from all curriculum in order to properly heal the head injury.” 

Fr. Kennedy’s 44-year career as a trustee comes to a close

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March 6 was a day of joyful reflection but also sadness at the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic School Board with the retirement of long-time trustee Fr. Kyran Kennedy.

“His pastoral way of being and living has had a remarkable impact on the way our board conducted itself over the past 44 years,” said board chair Patrick Daly in a press release (included below).

Ryerson student makes God his focus

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Kevin Lo entered Ryerson’s architecture program a mature, reserved and dedicated student. Starting university, grades were his uppermost focus — now it’s God.

This time last year Lo was nominated as vice-president of finance for Ryerson’s Catholic Students’ Association after becoming increasingly involved with the group. What started as a curiosity evolved into a vital component of Lo’s faith. But when he had an opportunity to truly influence the organization, Lo was filled with concern and doubt. So he prayed.

Parents must defend children against anti-family indoctrination

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OTTAWA - Parents must assert their rights as first educators of their children or bear the consequences of government policy that will profoundly re-engineer their children’s views on family and sexuality, says Teresa Pierre.

The director of Parents As First Educators (PAFE) said parents need to get involved in decisions being made that will affect their children.

“Start attending your parent-teacher meetings and start asking questions when you hear a proposal offered that doesn’t sound quite right, or worse, when you don’t hear anything at all,” she said. “Parents have a lot of influence when their criticisms are offered in a respectful way in a context of a community that knows you.

“The Church has told us the importance of parental authority in education and even suggested that families should work together to support each other,” she said, drawing from Familaris consortio (The Role of the Family in the Modern World), Pope John Paul II’s 1981 apostolic exhortation.  This document describes parental authority in education as “primary and inalienable” and outlines the duty parents have to maintain an active relationship with teachers and school authorities, she said. Parents are to be advocates of family policies in society, the document says, and warns “families will be the first victims of the evils they have done no more than note with indifference.”

PAFE is a fledgling organization formed last spring during equity policy public consultations with the Toronto Catholic District School Board. When former Ontario education minister Kathleen Wynne introduced the Equity and Inclusive Education policy to Ontario schools in 2008, Pierre said, “It was designed to create openness to all forms of sexual expression by offering them as part of the curriculum from the earliest ages.” The controversial Bill 13, which mandates gay-straight alliances in high schools, is one prong of this policy, which includes a sexual education curriculum.

Though the Liberals tried to introduce the curriculum in 2010, it received so much criticism from parents the Ministry of Education withdrew it, Pierre said, though she notes Wynne has said the policy will come back. This curriculum would teach Grade 3 students about homosexuality and gender identity, teach Grade 6 students about masturbation and teach Grade 8 students about the concepts “heterosexual, gay, lesbian, bisexual, two-spirited, transgendered, transsexual and intersexed,” she said.

“The second way the curriculum could be affected is that equity topics could be introduced almost anywhere in the regular curriculum,” she said, noting the Toronto District School Board issued a manual called Challenging Homophobia and Heterosexism: a K-12 Curriculum Guide that undermines traditional views of the family. The material treats homosexuality and gender identity as fixed characteristics, she said.

“The fact that there are lots of competing views on the origins of sexual identity or even the need for scientific proof is not even mentioned.”

Pierre said few parents even know about the policy, despite the public consultations.  She said the media, Church hierarchy and school boards play a role in dissemination of information but at the school level, parent-teacher associations should be informing parents about these policies.  

“Are they doing that? Most don’t,” she said.

“Even the people who do care and do know better are often afraid to speak against the culture. You need to overcome your own fear, which is the root of the problem.”

Alberta homeschoolers fear intrusion on their rights

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EDMONTON - Like homeschooling parents across Alberta, Maria Blunt believes the new Alberta School Act has the potential to undermine her freedom to teach her four children what she believes.

“I value the freedom of home education and to teach what I wish to teach but (the act) does limit our freedom as far as our values go,” the Sherwood Park woman said.

Catholic schools team with Marlies to tackle hunger

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TORONTO - Screams of support welcomed the Toronto Marlies March 7 as 4,500 Catholic students from the GTA cheered an 11 a.m. faceoff against the Binghamton Senators at the Ricoh Coliseum.

Students were allowed to cut class to catch the American Hockey League game between the minor-league affiliates of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators, learn about healthy living and raise money for the Angel Foundation for Learning. Attending schools raised about $10,000 as a portion from each ticket sold went to the charity.

Most Quebeckers oppose mandatory nature of Ethics and Religious Culture program

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OTTAWA - Most Quebeckers oppose the compulsory nature of the province's controversial Ethics and Religious Culture program (ERC), with 29 per cent saying it should be "scrapped altogether" in favour of improved mathematics or French-language courses.

In a Leger Marketing poll conducted for the Coalition for Freedom in Education (CLÉ), only four out of 10 Quebeckers want the controversial course to stay mandatory. A quarter would keep the course but make it optional.

The poll also discovered 55 per cent of Quebeckers would prefer the government introduce school vouchers that would allocate a fixed amount for educational funding per child that parents could use to choose the school they wish, whether public or private, CLÉ said in a March 7 news release.

Court overturns conflict conviction against TCDSB trustee Kennedy

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TORONTO - The Ontario Divisional Court has cleared Toronto Catholic school trustee Angela Kennedy of conflict-of-interest charges.

The court overturned a 2010 Ontario Superior Court verdict that found Kennedy guilty of a conflict stemming from a May 2008 school board budget meeting where she had voted against staff layoffs. The 2010 decision ruled her vote may have affected two of her sons who were employed by the Toronto Catholic District School Board.

The appellate court ruled March 5 that any economic interests Kennedy may have gained by voting against the cuts were minimal and unlikely to influence her vote.

Best Buy grant brings $20,000 for Beamsville school

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Beamsville, Ont.'s St. John Catholic Elementary School is one of 12 schools from across the country that will enhance its technological capabilities thanks to a $20,000 grant from Best Buy Canada.

The money will be used to upgrade outdated technology at the school in the small town located just west of St. Catharines, Ont.

"We are very excited and we think it is going to be very beneficial to our students," said Michael Maiorano, Grade 5 teacher at St. John. "Technology is always going out and you always need new technology and we think that is beneficial to our students."

OECTA says McGuinty video problematic for negotiations

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Premier Dalton McGuinty’s public call for the province’s teachers to “do their part” in helping slay Ontario’s deficit will only harm the bargaining process, says the head of the Catholic teachers’ union.  

In a recent YouTube video appearance, McGuinty asked Ontario teachers to accept a two-year wage freeze and a modified sick-leave plan in an effort to reduce the $16 billion provincial deficit in a way that preserves small class sizes and all-day kindergarten.

Evangelicals defend Catholics over GSA bill

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OTTAWA - The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC) warns that Ontario’s anti-bullying Bill 13 could violate the rights of Catholic and private religious schools if it requires them to act contrary to their beliefs.

In an 18-page resource for parents, the EFC praises the approach taken by the Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association’s Respecting Difference policy because it “addresses all forms of bullying equally” and complies with existing federal and provincial human rights laws.

Bill 13 requires all publicly funded schools to have gay-straight alliances, it says. Though the schools may use a different name, the groups must be issue-specific.