Accommodating Faith in High Schools

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High schools in Ontario, Canada, recently implemented a provincewide policy that serves to accommodate different faiths in schools.

Submitted: February 22, 2011

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Submitted: February 22, 2011



Awhile ago I came across a rather interesting news article about prayer rooms/places for Muslim in schools across Ontario, Canada. The article detailed a policy that states ‘school boards must be more inclusive and accommodate different faiths during the school day.’

‘The newly adopted faith and accommodation policy states that each student has a right to follow his or her beliefs free from discrimination or harassment. Areas of reasonable accommodation include observance of major religious holy days and celebrations, prayers and rituals, dietary requirements and fasting, religious attire and participation in school curriculum and extracurricular activities.’

This means Muslim students could have access to private rooms for those who pray the required five times a day. It also could also means modified gym classes for those who are fasting and well as a private room so the students don’t have to watch the non-fasting students eating lunch.

The policy not only affects public schools, but other school as well, such as private Catholic schools, which more Muslim parents are turning to. These Catholic high schools allow silent prayer in the school chapel, but an edict by a Canadian bishop outlaws any prayer other than Catholic prayer in the presence of the Eucharist. Therefore Muslim students are prohibited from saying their prayers in the prayer chapel. They must find somewhere else to pray then.

Worry over accommodating faith is a tricky issue when it comes to secular public school system. But the article points out ‘there is a clear distinction between accommodating a religion and proselytizing in the classroom.’ Idrisa Pandit, a mother from Waterloo, ON, said, ‘You can’t tell a Muslim student not to fast. They are not asking other people to pray with them.’

It was nice to hear how Western schools are accommodating Muslims. Not only are the secular schools adapting to fit the faiths of their students, but Catholic schools are doing the same.

I think this is a rather important policy, something US schools and other Western schools should adopt. I am sure there are schools in the US, especially those with large religious populations, already do have some sort of accommodation for those faiths. However, I’m sure Muslims in smaller schools might have a harder time working with school officials to do such a thing.

I know this would have possibly been true for the public high school I attended. I was the only Muslim in my school, and I have a hard time imagining I could have gotten special food (maybe a PB&J sandwich on days when pork was served but certainly not completely halal food) or a special room for prayer (I’d probably be sent to the office conference room or something). In fact, I don’t know if I would have even gotten permission to miss classes for prayer. However, I never asked, so who knows what would have happened. I suppose as it was a small school (200 students in K thru 12) and I was a top student, the administration would have been more accommodating as a bigger school. Hard to say though. The biggest problem probably would have been wearing a hijab in gym. However, I converted after I had satisfied the requirements for graduation in regards to physical education.

I hope other schools can take the example Ontario is setting and apply the same policy. Or, I hope parents take a stand if their son or daughter’s school doesn’t already have such a policy in place and insist schools be more accommodating of different faiths. Like the article said: accommodation does not mean proselytization.


Here’s the link to the news article:


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