Catholic values vs students’ rights

Yet another clash between religion and freedom has occurred at a Catholic high school in Ontario. This time things went down at St. Patrick High School in Thunder Bay on March 10, 2011.

Alexandria Szeglet, a Grade 10 student, attached to her school uniform a piece of green tape with the word “CHOICE” written on it. This was her response to a  number of other students who wore a red piece of tape with “LIFE” printed on it and choose not to speak for the day to as part of an anti-abortion/pro-life event.

Not only did Szeglet wear her green tape pro-choice message, she handed out pieces of the green tape to many other students as well. Szeglet as well as another dozen students were sent home for their actions. The principal of the school, John de Faveri, stated that “the pro-choice students were not appropriate in the context of a Catholic school.”

To read more about the situation, read this article or this one.

Many of my colleagues have speculated about the longevity of the separate school system in Ontario. Those who believe its days are numbered seem to think that it will be an economic reality that will eventually lead to its demise. They believe that during some provincial election far in the future, some party will bravely put forth the issue of the amalgamation of the school systems as a cost-saving measure.

I disagree. While there is certainly some duplication in the administration of the two systems, coterminous school boards are already sharing many resources and have combined for purchase power to the point that much of the savings have already been obtained.

What I believe will be the downfall of the Catholic school system in Ontario will be their individual board’s inability to afford students their basic rights while adhering to the ancient tenets of Roman Catholicism. I don’t see our province’s human rights regressing and I doubt the Catholic church is set to become more progressive in its social views. As this gap continues to widen, Catholic schools are going to struggle to remain relevant and viable in the eyes of the public.

It will be the public’s disgust with the positions and actions of Catholic School Boards that will lead voters to dismiss the separate school system and demand a single, unified one. It won’t be this provincial election, or probably even the next, but the clock is ticking.

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