Petition Closed

10,252
Supporters

A school should be a safe space for all children. Not a place where 12-year-old girls are treated as second class citizens, and certainly not a place where menstruating girls are ostracized as "unclean" and sent to the back of the "prayer-cafeteria" as third class citizens!

Yes, you read that correctly. Valley Park Middle School in Toronto allows Muslim students to use the cafeteria for Friday prayer, but has decided to segregate their students based on gender. Seventh and eighth grade girls pray behind the boys, separated by tables, while participating girls who have their period must sit on their own in the back of the room, not partaking in the prayer.

Both Canada's left-wing and right-wing national newspapers have run editorials equally decrying this appalling situation and school board decision. The accompanying photo published has provoked outrage at the treatment of these young girls in a publicly-funded school.

While the Toronto District School Board claims they are obligated to provide accommodation for students' faith needs, this segregation violates the Ontario Education Act and the District's own gender equity policy.

Furthermore, the school's practice is condemned by the Muslim Canadian Congress, which is threatening legal action. MCC founder Tarek Fatah stated his concern that "the Toronto District School Board (is) using tax money to tell girls that they are second-class citizens" because of "white, liberal guilt." Fatah elaborated: "Deep inside is a racist view that Muslims are not considered equal human beings, and that they can treat women how they want, and it’s nobody else’s concern." With these major Muslim groups also so strongly in favor of gender equity, the school district should seriously reconsider why its imposing sexist segregation on impressionable students.

Religious accommodations could be made for Muslim students without promoting sexism and gender segregation. Trustee Michael Coteau says that the prayer sessions should be conducted in line with the District's gender equity policy, with girls -- all of them -- praying beside the boys.

Right now, the only "choice" for Muslim girls is to agree to sit behind their male peers, or to not participate in the prayer at all. They should be able to choose to practice their faith in an equitable manner, alongside their male classmates, an option they are denied by the current set-up.

Please sign this petition to call up the Toronto School District Board to respect gender equity and not shame girls for menstruating.

Letter to
Director of Education, Toronto District School Board, Toronto, CANADA Chris Spence
Trustee, Toronto District School Board Jerry Chadwick
Trustee, Toronto District School Board Jenny Williams
and 24 others
Chief Commissioner, Ontario Human Rights Comission Barbara Hall
Chair of the Board, Toronto District School Board, Toronto, CANADA Chris Bolton
Trustee, Toronto District School Board Stephnie Payne
Trustee, Toronto District School Board Zane Schwartz
Trustee, Toronto District School Board Sheila Ward
Trustee, Toronto District School Board Michael Coteau
Trustee, Toronto District School Board Howard Goodman
Trustee, Toronto District School Board Soo Wong
Ontario Minister of Education Leona Dombrowsky
Trustee, Toronto District School Board Shaun Chen
Trustee, Toronto District School Board David Smith
Trustee, Toronto District School Board Elizabeth Moyer
Trustee, Toronto District School Board John Hastings
Trustee, Toronto District School Board Chris Glover
Trustee, Toronto District School Board Pamela Gough
Trustee, Toronto District School Board Howard Kaplan
Trustee, Toronto District School Board Chris Tonks
Trustee, Toronto District School Board Irene Atkinson
Trustee, Toronto District School Board Shelley Laskin
Trustee, Toronto District School Board Mari Rutka
Trustee, Toronto District School Board Gerri Gershon
Trustee, Toronto District School Board Cathy Dandy
Trustee, Toronto District School Board Sheila Cary-Meagher
Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty
A school should be a safe space for all children. Not a place where 12-year-old girls are treated as second class citizens, and certainly not a place where menstruating girls are ostracized as "unclean" and sent to the back of the "prayer-cafeteria" as third class citizens.

However, it has come to my attention that the Valley Park Middle School in Toronto allows Muslim students to use the cafeteria for Friday prayer, with girls praying behind the boys and menstruating girls further separated and isolated.

Both Canada's left-wing and right-wing national newspapers have run editorials equally decrying this appalling situation. While the Toronto District School Board claims that they are obligated to provide accommodation for students' faith needs, this could be done without the sexist segregation, which violates Ontario's Education Act and the District's own gender equity policy.

The school's practice has been condemned by the Muslim Canadian Congress, which is threatening legal action. With a major Muslim group so strongly opposed as well, the school district should seriously reconsider its position -- or the Ministry of Education should step in. Instead of wasting public money that should be for students on fighting a lawsuit, now is the time to make the choice to stand up for girls and gender equity.

Right now, the only "choice" for Muslim girls is to agree to sit behind their male peers, or to not participate in the prayer at all. They should be able to choose to practice their faith in an equitable manner, alongside their male classmates, an option they are denied by the current set-up.

Please respect gender equity by doing all in your power to end these sexist prayer sessions. If the district wishes to continue to permit Muslim students to use the school for prayer, it must be conducted in accordance with Ontario and District gender equity guidelines: with girls -- all of them -- praying beside the boys.