Public Catholic school suspends students for wearing pro-choice stickers

Seven students at a publicly funded Catholic school* in Thunder Bay, Ontario have been suspended from school for wearing homemade pro-choice t-shirts on a day that the school administration had devoted to a "pro-life" Day of Silence. 23 kids wore the shirts, and seven refused to remove them when instructed to do so by the school's administration. Five of the seven were sent home for the day; two others were given two-day suspensions for swearing at teachers during the heated discussion of their protest.
The St. Patrick's Catholic High School students were either sent home or suspended for refusing to remove green pieces of tape with the word "choice" during a pro-life event Thursday, organized by a school chaplain and a student group, in which students sported similar labels with the word "life."

Among the students sent home was Alexandria Szeglet, 15, who initiated the protest after telling her mother that morning she disagreed with the event. Ann Szeglet responded, "Be peaceful about it. Don't make it a big deal."

"I was really respectful, but I just think the school goes a little further than a high school should [in] saying prolife," Alexandria said.

*Ontario's public education system is split into four subsystems: French, English, French-Catholic and English-Catholic; it's a product of the delicate negotiation that led to the merger of French and English Canada in the nineteenth century. Catholic schools receive a double-dose of funds, one from the taxpayers, the other from the Church. I sometimes do talks at Catholic schools when I tour in Canada; interestingly, the last couple schools I've been to had a large number of girls in hijabs and boys who self-identified as Muslim. When I asked a teacher why Muslim parents would enroll their children in a Catholic school, she said that sex education in the Catholic system is less explicit and thorough than in the secular schools, so conservative Muslim parents enroll their children and instruct them to ignore all religious elements of the school.

Pro-choice stickers lead to student suspensions (Thanks, NoDeg, via Submitterator)

(Image: CBC/Strombo)


  1. It’s a Catholic school. What do people expect? There is no right of free speech in the Catholic church. Any power the hierarchy can bring to bear will fall on those who dare to disagree. After all, this is the divine word of God.


    1. It is a publicly funded Catholic school. It is really a private school that like other private religious schools, discriminates in admissions and hiring against people not of their faith. Only difference is that in Ontario, the Catholic schools (and only the Catholic schools) get public funding. This makes them “public” in the Catholic Premier’s mind, even though they can reject two-thirds of the Ontario population as students or teachers.

      Ontario Catholics bear the same tax burden as anyone else, but they alone are guaranteed the choice of two schools wherever they live in Ontario. No one else has this privilege. Catholics are citizens of the first order — everyone else is second class.

  2. Hopefully this story won’t deter any other students from speaking their mind. Young people everywhere should be encouraged to question authority figures and have opinions of their own, even if that authority figure is “God”.

    1. Dude, this isn’t about “God”, the pope doesn’t represent what most of us believe and is not the authority figure, moreover abortions are not something “God” gives a crap about in the bible.

      This is about censorship because of the byzantine school systems where these kids are which forces them to choose between secular and a subpar education or a really good school system with the fecal aura of lack of religious choice.

      Get over it, God is Great and the “I am”, you’re misidentified humans here, not God.

  3. I can’t get my head around religious public schools. The non-religious (but, shh, really religious) public schools we have in the US are confusing enough in their inconsistent and sometimes outright hostile positions regarding students’ rights.

    1. It really is an odd system (and it’s been discontinued in parts of Canada with much higher concentrations of practicing Catholics, such as Newfoundland and Quebec). One way in which it gets very weird is in respect of employment law, as the government isn’t supposed to discriminate on the basis of religion, but the Catholic systems have maintained that their teaching positions should be reserved for practicing Catholics.

      1. The Catholic boards just require letters of recommendation from priests – I know one non-Catholic who was hired and got a letter of recommendation attached to her file from a priest she’d never met. The secondary Catholic schools do have to accept all students, Catholic or not.
        There was no French or English Canada that joined together – There are French-Canadians in both Quebec and Ontario – at the time of Confederation, about a third of the non-native population in Quebec spoke English, and the first public schools in what became Ontario were in French and taught by Catholics – that resulted in the oddity that the first ‘separate’ schools in Ontario were Protestant, and there still is one ‘separate’ Protestant school in Northern Ontario – Ontario was only required to provide separate religious schools – it actually forbade the use of French in education in 1912. It was only in 1984 that Ontario guaranteed primary and secondary education in French, and the formation of of the four major divisions of school boards happened only in the past few years.
        It would be a lot more efficient to have everybody going to the same school, and there is always the risk that having separate schools will fragment society, but it would be hard to abolish Catholic boards under the Constitution.

  4. No, they were suspended for not removing the tape after they were told. There is text in the code of conduct that explicitly says they are not allowed to wear clothing or items that make statements or controversy (which, at a Catholic schoollthis is).

    The kids wearing the “LIFE” labels had arranged permission beforehand, and had been approved. These kids hadn’t even asked.

    This really is a big mess of poor communications. It’s not an anti-abortion censorship thing, no matter how hard you want to make it that.

    “Hey, lets break the dress code with pro-choice shirts!” “Please follow the dress code.” “NO!” “You’re suspended, like the dress code says.” “CENSORSHIP!!!!”

    1. It’s clear (from the reaction of the protesting students) that the “pro life” message that the administration approved was both a) a statement and b) controversial (inasumuch as it created a controversy, this is indisputable). If the dress code prohibits controversial statements without regard to their content, why did the administration approve the “pro life” day? And since they did approve the controversial “pro life” statement, how does that square with your insistence that this issue isn’t related to issues of abortion or censorship?

    2. Nice try, but:

      …on a day that the school administration had devoted to a “pro-life” Day of Silence

      The school itself was also making a statement and engaging in controversy.

      When my brother went to Catholic school (because my parents found the public school district unsafe, 7 years after I’d been through it), two students were given 10-day suspensions for having pro-choice bumper stickers on their cars in the school parking lot.

    3. Don’t you see??? They weren’t _censored_. They were disciplined for violating the rule of not expressing political views unapproved by the administration… at an event where the administration was expressing said political views. That’s not censorship at all, people!

    4. You make a valid point.
      And yet, such a tactic was probably the only way these students had to significantly raise awareness about the imposed bias of having a pro-life day…

      Also, when a rule is broken by a group of intelligent people, in such a peaceful way and without any negative impact, a DISCUSSION is in order, not a SUSPENSION… That is where the administration of that school failed…

    5. The you won’t have any grounds to object if I suspend your BB account for blaming the victim.

  5. Not sure how it works in Canadia, but in the US it’s at least common knowledge if not written down in law, that most free speech stops somewhere outside the parking lot of public schools. And the Catholics are very clear about their feelings on abortion and procreation and whatnot. If you couldn’t get away with it at a secular public school, you’re sure as hell not getting away with it at a Catholic school. Not saying it’s right, but it is what it is, you chose to try to rock the boat, you get to deal with the punishment for doing so. If nothing else, just think of all the publicity you’re generating for your cause now!

  6. I couldn’t believe it when I moved to Ontario… I live in a tiny community which still has two elemtary schools – one non-religious and one Catholic. Both are state schools and the really stupid thing is that both are threatened by small pupil numbers and have to run year-combined classes. Of course, if there was only one school it would be just about the perfect size, there could be proper year groups etc. But the Catholic school board (and CAtholic parents) refuse to consider it, and in the end, they seem to be able to continue to financially support the school, even within a supposedly ‘state’ system.

    It is certainly ‘odd’ and the open politicisation of Catholic teaching as in the case in the story makes the case for abolishing this divided system even stronger (as if that were necessary anyway).

    1. I don’t think it’s any worse than the French highschool in my small town that only had 50 students. They had to maintain a whole building and everything else just for a very small number of students. Most of the OAC (grade 13) classes didn’t even have enough kids to bother having a class so most of the students took advanced classes by correspondence. Most of the French kids ended up switching to English school because there was a much better variety and quality of classes to prepare them for university. Yet they didn’t close down the French school either.

      1. French is one of Canada’s 2 official languages. Last time I checked, there was no official religion – despite what our current megalomaniac PM would have us believe.

  7. While muslim students are legally allowed to attend catholic schools, as are children of any faith, the administration makes it very difficult.

    I’ve worked in schools for years and have repeatedly had parents come to tell me that a school’s administration denied their child enrolment on the basis that the child wasn’t a baptized catholic. Only after explaining at great length and strongly encouraging each of the parents to ‘push back a little’ did the administration allow the children to be enrolled in each instance. They love to claim it’s a rule but technically, being publicly funded, they can’t deny enrolment to a tax payer on the basis of faith.

    Like all other catholic organizations however, corruption, dishonesty and NOT having children’s best interests in mind, is par for the course.

    FYI, all of my schooling (primary & secondary) was through catholic schools in Ontario – so I’m not just some outsider slagging catholics. There is something inherently wrong with the way this scenario has come to be and while it may have been a necessity at the turn of the 20th century, the catholic school system needs to now be absorbed into the public system.

    1. Re: “While muslim students are legally allowed to attend catholic schools, as are children of any faith, the administration makes it very difficult.”

      In Ontario, Canada, no one who is not Catholic (with documentation to prove it) has any “right” to attend Catholic schools before grade 9, when “open access” is supposed to apply. Publicly funded (by all taxpayers) Catholic schools have an absolute right to reject non-Catholic applicants until then. They have an absolute right to reject non-Catholic teachers at all grade levels.

  8. if one of those students were to actually act on their pro-life stance (by using a condom perhaps?) would they be thrown out of system entirely?

    the “Quebec Act” of 1774 enshrined the right of Quebecois to maintain their Catholic religion, French language and civic law. Faith based schools may have been a good idea 200 years ago, but i question their necessity in today’s multi-faith Canada. Why not publicly funded Muslim, Jewish or Hindu schools? Why not just label school systems as progressive or conservative and be done with it?

    cudos to Ms. Szeglet who refuses to let an institution make major life choices for her!

    1. Why not publicly funded Muslim, Jewish or Hindu schools? Why not just label school systems as progressive or conservative and be done with it?

      This was suggested in the last election by the Tory (conservative) opposition, at first people we’re OK with it, and then someone asked if they could each teach their own theory of creation – including “creationism” (or whatever it’s called now) and the opposition leader at the time John Tory (yes that’s his real name) said something like they’d be able to select their own curriculum. Then people when nuts and he lost in a massive landslide to the Liberals.

      What was particularly awesome about it – is you think that would have driven a debate on the funding of religious schools by the government, separation of church and state and all that but the debate was mostly “Creationism Bad”/”Choice Good” – I’m not even sure the current Catholic School curriculum was brought up.

      There’s a lot of voters who support the Catholic system in Ontario so it’s not likely something that will ever change, and since they receive funding from the Church as well as the state they are generally better funded schools – so even those that don’t ascribe to the religion tend to send their kids there.

      1. i remember that election debate. the voters didn’t want to fracture the public school system into a chaotic combination of competing curricula.

        no one was suggesting that Catholicism shouldn’t be taught, but the idea of creationism in our schools really scared us. never mind that the Roman Catholic church doesn’t endorse creationism.
        anecdotally, i asked a (privately funded) Montessori School principle what she thought of teaching creationism. she replied that they introduced the students to many different creation myths.

        ps. i am in favour of naming our politicians according to their political beliefs. makes voting day much simpler

    2. The brother of SWIM (and his girlfriend) were expelled from their Catholic H.S. for taking responsibility for an unplanned pregnancy and raising the baby. Had they decided on an abortion instead they would have remained in school, no problem. Crass hypocrisy much?

      1. “expelled from their Catholic H.S. for taking responsibility for an unplanned pregnancy and raising the baby”

        i did not know that
        now my head hurts

        1. It was an image thing: a living baby is a visible reminder of the sin of pre-marital sex. That experience seemed to have turned the couple away from the Church forever. Luckily, they are very smart people; they got their GEDs, college, and can financially support themselves. Not everyone who experiences similar circumstances as they did can deal with that stigma.

          My mother-in-law is a former Catholic H.S. principal in Ontario. Although she is a deeply religious person, she has renounced the Church because of its behavior in Canada and around the world.

          I look forward to the day when the Pope, et al have as much daily relevance in our lives as… buggy makers.

          1. It was an image thing: a living baby is a visible reminder of the sin of pre-marital sex.

            I understand why Catholics might find that reminder problematic according to their doctrine, but if the official Catholic take on abortion is that it is murder, wouldn’t it be considered less sinful, theologically, for those kids to have had pre-marital sex and have raised the baby than for them to have had pre-marital sex and aborted? Both the premarital sex and the abortion, I believe, would both be considered “mortal” sins under Catholic theology, but I believe that abortions are considered to be “graver” mortal sins, since having an abortion is one of the few sins for which you can get automatically excommunicated.

            If the Catholic school is worried about the state of the baby’s soul as well as the state of the students’ souls, how could the school really have been *more* embarrassed by the visible reminder of a lesser mortal sin than a presumably invisible reminder of a really big mortal sin? I’ve been led to think that automatic excommunication is generally considered pretty much the biggest image problem you can have as an individual Catholic, not to mention a spiritual problem according to Catholic dogma.

            (I also find it really weird to try to think of a living baby both as a precious gift with its own life, and as a visible reminder of parental sin–especially since if that same baby had been conceived within a marriage, the baby would only be considered to be the former, not the latter…but an absence of baby due to abortion wouldn’t have posed as much of an image problem, even though it would have been considered to be murdered? Those kids couldn’t win, could they?)

            (I am not a Catholic; if somebody who is has a more detailed explanation I’d love to hear it).

          2. [I]f the official Catholic take on abortion is that it is murder, wouldn’t it be considered less sinful, theologically, for those kids to have had pre-marital sex and have raised the baby than for them to have had pre-marital sex and aborted?

            The answer to your question is yes, according to its doctrines the Church would prefer babies to be born and not aborted. But you are also asking an inconvenient question: this Catholic H.S. (and many others like it) would prefer teenagers have their babies somewhere else. The granted punishment rather than redemption, or in other words preferred an Old Testament rather than a New Testament solution to the “problem”, by which they mean “a living being”.

            The lesson that couple seemed to take from their experience is that one should not expect ideological consistency or mercy from such a thoroughly rotten institution.

            They got over it. I hope someday the rest of the world will follow.

    3. In the early days of the provincial election campaign in Ontario in 2007, John Tory, the Progressive Conservative leader, declared his intention to provide public money to all faiths to run their own schools. A few days later, The Globe and Mail reported that 70% of Ontario’s voters opposed the idea while 25% of Ontario’s voters supported the idea. John Tory went on to lose the election.

      Most Ontarians (including me) do not want tax dollars to support religious indoctrination in the schools. In fact, many Ontario voters would like to see the Roman Catholic schools stripped of their public funding to more fully separate church and state and to treat all religions equally before the law.

      R. Franklin Carter (Toronto)

  9. I keep dreaming “maybe this will finally be the case that finally leads to the abolition of publicly funded religious schools in Canada”

    Then I realize it won’t, and I really am just dreaming, and I get depressed.

    1. No, it probably won’t. I really wish someone would make it an issue in this fall’s election, but there really doesn’t seem to be enough public feeling about it one way or another. There should be of course.

      Given that there are many things where there are strong public feelings about issues, where there is traction on something, nobody is going to go out of their way to create controversy where it currently doesnt’ exist.

      Maybe someone will run the numbers to figure out how many millions of dollars we’re wasting on duplicate school administrations, so it could be a fiscal issue, which would appear to be a big theme for October. Either way it gets sold, I’d be ok as long as it happens.

  10. If this was a private school I’d completely agree with their decision (I’m a Catholic JSYK). But… “public” Catholic school? What in the world? I guess it does make sense, but if the community that goes to the school isn’t Catholic, then they have a bit of a problem more important than pro-choice stickers…

  11. A year or two ago, we tried to get rid of this antiquated system… unfortunately, our Premier, Dalton McGuinty, is Catholic with kids in the system.
    The fact that this system still exists has me furious – because of stunts like that above.

  12. Umm… just a note here, the students suspended were, according to the article, suspended for cursing at the teachers. The headline is inaccurate. Go ahead and get enraged at them sending the other students home, but no need to bend the facts. Besides, it’s enraging enough that students have zero free speech rights and can get suspended for using cursewords.


  13. But…but…I thought being a “person of faith” was supposed to make you MORE tolerant and accepting of others. Now I just don’t know what to believe….

  14. None of the big three political parties in Canada have said anything on the matter of respecting human rights legislation and supporting better education for all Canadian children by merging the state funded religious system with the public system.

    I hope this event, along with the last few months of embarrassment [vis-a-vie banning Gay-Straight alliances and similar clubs from high schools] will have some MPPs at least talking about what this means, or else severely restraining the ability of these school administrators to make decisions like this.

  15. Why is the title of this “… suspends students for wearing pro-choice stickers”? That wasn’t the case. It says right in the details that the suspensions were for swearing at teachers. Wearing the ‘choice’ shirts just got them sent home for the day.

    As far as how they handled the choice stickers, it was controversial compared to the life stickers because life stickers are acceptable by staff and by the sounds of it, most of the students. Wearing ‘choice’ stickers would offend the majority and powers that be, hence controversial. Think of it like the school colors. Pro-life seems to be their school colors in a sense.

    1. That’s a pretty specialized (and awfully convenient) definition of “controversial.”

      Regarding the title; 5 students were sent home for the day.

      1. Yeah. Just went to the article you referenced and there it says four suspensions for not removing sticker, two for swearing. Your sum up didn’t mention the four. That changes things. Odd that some just got sent home for the day and some got two day suspensions. I agree with the suspensions for swearing at teachers, but suspending for choice stickers is a bit heavy handed.

      2. As far as my specialized and awfully convenient definition, I’m trying to explain why the school would not see ‘life’ as controversial. That’s the problem when you have rules based on subjective evaluations. Personal bias is too easy to shove down folks throats.

        1. “As far as my specialized and awfully convenient definition, I’m trying to explain why the school would not see ‘life’ as controversial.”

          As mentioned earlier in this thread, Ontario Catholic schools often have a lot of kids from other religions & beliefs and are just sent there because their parents thought that school was better than the regular public school. Not to mention even Catholic kids having different opinions from their parents and those of the Catholic Church. So yes, being pro-life could count as controversial at least at the student level, depending on the group of students.

  16. It’s hard to tell from a short blog post the all the ins and outs of this story – what the school’s rules really are and how the students were truly acting in their protest. I would fully support students being suspended for swearing at their teachers. But even as a confirmed pro-lifer myself I find myself confused by the apparent double standard in the school. Even though pro-life is an issue I feel very strongly about, so is freedom of speech. Religious organizations constantly bemoan the censorship they experience in our modern culture, so why the hypocrisy here? If they were actively trying to undermine the school’s pro-life day of silence that would be one thing, but simple t-shirts showing a difference of opinion is pretty tame. I wish it were possible to understand the situation a little more clearly…

  17. At some level, this just makes me glad to live in a country where “Public Catholic school” is an oxymoron.

  18. Good for her! I went to Catholic school in Ontario. Most teachers tended to stay far away from controversial subjects like abortion, euthanasia, etc. Probably to avoid any kind of confrontation like this. I did have a few very conservative teachers who would go on anti-abortion rants, but I also had lots of very liberal teachers who encouraged brain-usage and some even secretly taught us sex-ed (provided we snuck in our own condoms and bananas and agreed not to tell our parents). It’s weird.

    No abortion, no birth control, surrounded by teenage girls wearing minikilts. It’s like they wanted us to sin.

    “Why not publicly funded Muslim, Jewish or Hindu schools?”

    A Conservative provincial politician argued that in the last election… and lost the election by a landslide. Muslims, Jews and Hindus account for less than 5% of Ontario’s population, compared to 35% of Ontarians who identify as Catholic and are the largest religious group in the province. If anything, I think most people (including many Catholics) want to get rid of the Catholic school system – it’s just not a fight any politician wants to pick.

    1. “it’s just not a fight any politician wants to pick.”

      i agree. with a system so heavily entrenched it’s unlikely to change anytime soon. it’s ironic that (predominantly Catholic) Quebec did away with faith-based schools decades ago

      i think the question is not ‘why are we funding Catholics?’
      it’s ‘why are we funding a pro-life agenda?’

      –tiny quibble ~ 14% of Canadians (couldn’t find an Ontario stat) identify themselves as non-Christian but religious. that would include Buddhists, Sikhs, aboriginals, etc + the Muslims, Jews and HIndus i alluded to.

      1. Quebec may have done away with Christian denominational schools, but doesn’t Montreal still have separate Jewish parochial schools? Are they publicly- or privately-funded?

        1. “doesn’t Montreal still have separate Jewish parochial schools? Are they publicly- or privately-funded?”

          seems that most faith-based schools are privately funded in Quebec, but the government subsidizes the tuition if the school follows a provincially approved curriculum. would this mean the schools are indirectly publicly funded? i can’t confirm any of this though…

      2. Re: “i think the question is not ‘why are we funding Catholics?’
        it’s ‘why are we funding a pro-life agenda?'”

        Interesting question indeed. Abortion is legal in Ontario but the province funds a school system that teaches it is an evil akin to murder and that suspends students who express support for the policy. Ontario is gay tolerant, but funds Catholic school boards that fight the creation of gay-straight alliances within their schools tooth and nail.

        Jesus Christ himself said a house divided against itself cannot stand. By this divine wisdom, we can expect either Ontario or its publicly funded Catholic school boards to fall. Ontario will either complete its transformation into a Catholic theocracy or it will expunge the elements of Catholic theocracy that now afflict it.

  19. I don’t buy that a Catholic school is engaging in controversey by being pro-life.

    If a catholic school says “The Pope is infallible whens speaking ex cathedra” or “God exists”, that’s not a controversy just because non-catholics don’t hold to those views, and controvert them. Its a perfectly non-controversial position of the Catholics. So is the pro-life position.

  20. If the mission of the school is to teach Catholicism (in addition to secular material), its actions are entirely reasonable. In this sense, it’s just the same as if students were to insist on wearing anti-intellectual material to school–going against the entire concept and mission of a school, it would be entirely within the school’s remit to ban such individuals in the furtherance of its mission.

    If the mission of the school does not include the teaching of Catholicism, then why have a Catholic school system in the first place? Apartheid?

    1. you’d think Catholic schools would spend a lot of time indoctrinating the kids, but it’s not really like that – it IS a public school, after all. Other than the occasional in-school mass, religious teachings were restricted to religion class, the rest of my classes were indistinguishable from public school classes. In elementary school religion teachers focus on New Testament teachings, but by high school the religion classes were more like ethics/philosophy classes. By my last 2 years of highschool it seemed like students were split 3-ways between atheists/agnostics, Liberal Catholics, and Serious Catholics.

      All in all I’m not resentful that I went to religious schools, because it prepared me to deal with religious people! :-)

      The worst part of Catholic education is that they don’t (or didn’t in my day) teach any tolerance towards homosexuals, so it sucked to be a gay kid in Catholic school since harassment was pretty common and support groups not allowed. It wasn’t that the educators condoned the harassment, but homosexuality was never mentioned in any class I attended. Teachers are officially told to not discriminate against gays and also to discourage gay people from pursuing same-sex relationships, and no teachers I had (including the gay ones) wanted to deal with that headache. What could they say? “It’s ok to be gay as long as you don’t have buttsecks! Then you go to hell! Unless you confess, in detail, to an 80 year old priest in a dark room at the back of the church.”

      So we got our information on homosexuality from the schoolyard and misanthropic bus drivers.

      There’s a detailed article at the G&M about Halton CDSB’s battle with some students who wanted to form a Gay-Straight Alliance support group. It’s a mess!

      btw, because it hasn’t been mentioned yet, Ontario taxpayers get to choose which school system they want their property taxes to support. Every year I get a form in the mail asking me which school system I want to fund, even though I don’t have kids. Weird, huh?

      Also, we buy milk in bags here. And our favourite chips are Ketchup chips.. Canada is a strange place.

      1. Really? You get a notice from the mail to designate where you tax goes? From my understanding Catholic schools are funded according to the number or students, not the number of of Catholic taxpayers

        1. In Ontario, your school support is assumed to be English-Public until you respond to / notify MPAC differently.

          For example, during the latest municipal elections (October 2010), when going to vote, if your registration card indicated the wrong school board support information, you are able to swear an oath, and fill out a form to change the information.

  21. I’m a Canadian. I hate, hate, hate the split system. Here in Calgary, if they were all public schools then a lot of the issues we have about school shortages, long bus rides and facility access would be addressed (for example, there’s a high school in my neighbourhood, but it’s Catholic. The nearest public school is a long bus ride away.)

    Personally, I think Catholic schools go against the ideals of Canada as I’ve met more than a few people who send their kids to one so they don’t have to ‘mix with “others”‘. Shouldn’t we be educating our children in an environment where multiculturalism and exposure to all walks of life is present? In fact, remove all religious indoctrination from schools entirely — perhaps offer courses teaching major world religions and that’s it.

    I also think charter schools should be abolished. There’s no place for snob factories in my country.

    If you took all the dollars and educators out of the charter and catholic schools, I’d imagine that a single, higher quality public program would form as a result…

  22. Eh…. I dunno. Protest has consequences, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. That’s an important lesson. Sent home for the day because you were peaceably protesting feels like about the right amount of reaction. The kids that got suspended were suspended for cursing at teachers, which I can see.

    I dunno, I can’t get so worked up and indignant here. The kids managed to bring this to light in a wider context and seemed to pay a pretty small price to do so.

  23. I went to a couple Catholic schools (FSM FTW). One of them had us make anti-abortion posters. I didn’t believe in the anti-abortion sentiment, and refused to make the poster. I forget how I was punished for that.

    (I did receive the all-time record for detentions at the school, and I wasn’t really a bad kid.)

  24. Smart kids, prejudiced teachers. It’s beyond an educator’s remit to teach pro life or pro choice. If given the facts and educated on the options, 15-year-old kids are old enough to think for themselves on these issues; they really are.

    This is why the faith schools we have here in the UK are such an awful idea. To limit someone’s choice of educational facility because of their abortion beliefs is just fundamentally undemocratic.

  25. Protest has consequences and so does abuse of power.

    The Catholic school system depends on public funds and is thus accountable to every taxpayer that pays for them.

    If they don’t like free speech, well tough.

    Out here in Boston the parochial school system has essentially collapsed because even Catholics don’t want to send their kids to be educated by pedophile rapists under school boards and bishops who cover up the crimes.

    It is rather noticeable that the pedophile scandals have affected countries where the church was strong enough to imagine it could abuse children with impunity. There were scandals in Ireland and the US and many other deeply Catholic countries but not in the UK or Canada where the church was much less confident of its position. Part of the reason was that the bishops were moving the abusers to countries where they thought they thought the authorities would cover for them.

    1. “There were scandals in Ireland and the US and many other deeply Catholic countries but not in the UK or Canada…”

      Not true – there were some scandals in Canada.

    2. No Catholic scandals in Canada?! No offense intended, Dude, but you don’t know shit about Canada if you can even say something like that. Try Googling Mount Cashel, or Residential Schools and see what comes up.

      Every major denomination here in Canada is now scrambling to come up with the cash – selling assets, milking their remaining parishioners,etc. – to pay for their share of the settlement imposed on the churches for their part in destroying indigenous cultures with the residential school system.

      Sorry to rant, but the notion that there has been no shenanigans by the Catholic (or any!) church in Canada is simply ludicrous and needed to be corrected.

      1. “Try Googling Residential Schools and see what comes up.”

        what comes up is that many christian faiths abused aboriginal children. Anglican, Presbyterian and United Churches were first to apologize to Canada’s aboriginals. the Catholic Church apologized in 2009

        Canadian chid sex abuse is not faith-based. it occurs in all the school systems.

        (what’s the emoticon for ‘wishing for a utopian society’)

        1. “(what’s the emoticon for ‘wishing for a utopian society’)”

          what’s the emoticon for “good luck with that”? ;-)

          I agree with you about all schools bearing responsible. I was merely correcting hallam’s assertion that such things never happen here in Canada.

        2. The abuse of aboriginal children pretty much reinforces my original point that the rate of abuse tracks the expectation of official investigation.

          There are a few parts of the UK where the church might have expected the benefit of a cover up but none where they could be as confident that the authorities would not act as in Boston or Philadelphia or New York.

          These patterns of abuse are certainly not limited to a single denomination or faith but they do have some very clear common factors. In particular an expectation that the community and/or authorities would cover up the abuse rather than risk scandal and a authoritarian, dogmatic theology in which asking the wrong type of questions about faith is considered sinful.

          1. “These patterns of abuse are certainly not limited to a single denomination or faith but they do have some very clear common factors. In particular an expectation that the community and/or authorities would cover up the abuse rather than risk scandal…”

            well said. i would have to agree

        3. “Canadian chid sex abuse is not faith-based. it occurs in all the school systems.”

          No, it does not.

          Although it once did, at least in those we now know about.

          But your statement covers all school systems whatsoever in Canada and at the present day: and that is not the case.

          You paint using too broad a brush.

          1. “your statement covers all school systems whatsoever in Canada and at the present day: and that is not the case.
            You paint using too broad a brush.”

            i respectfully disagree.
            the residential school system systemically abused aboriginal students, a situation that has now ended.
            abuse, sexual or otherwise, still occurs sporadically in all school systems.
            i didn’t mean to imply that child abuse was widespread, merely that abuse, tragically, still exists in canada

  26. I sent the principal this e-mail:

    Dear Mr. Veneruz,

    This is regarding your decision to send students home because they expressed their opinion in the form of a sticker marked “Choice”.

    I went to the St. Pat’s website and checked out your uniform rules. There was no mention that students were not allowed to wear stickers (or headbands or bracelets or anything else that might be emblazoned with a single word).

    So I have to conclude that the 4 students who were sent home were not being punished for any violations of dress code, but rather for exercising their right to free speech. Are you prepared for any lawsuits that might ensue?

    Just curious,
    Ted Ludzik
    A former Catholic zombie

  27. title should read “kids wearing pro-choice stickers are rewarded with extra vacation”

  28. Having a pro-life day crosses the line between teaching and indoctrination. Not acceptable.

    1. Having a pro-life day crosses the line between teaching and indoctrination. Not acceptable.

      It’s a religious school. I think they crossed that line long before pro-life day.

      But where exactly is that line when it comes to education, anyway? I think it might be the point at which you move from teaching facts and ways of thinking about facts to teaching values and morality directly. Forget the thinking, here’s your conclusion, son. But if that’s the line, does any mainstream education system in any nation fail to cross it?

      1. I think the line can be stated quite clearly, but unfortunately it’s a phrase that has been stolen for other ends: “teach the controversy”.

        If there exists more than one side of an argument, its a schools’ job to show all sides fairly.

        (That does even apply to evolution, but I did say “fairly” not “equally” – in that case all you need to do is say, “some people disbelieve in evolution, but there is no scientific case for it.”)

    1. Nice example of peaceful, respectful protest.

      Hmm. I’d say that protest is pretty much by definition going to have to be disrespectful. Perhaps not outright rude, or maybe ‘not abusive’ is a better term – but disrespectful, certainly

  29. The United States idea of free speech doesn’t apply. This is Canada. I just read a bit about free speech in Canada and it’s interesting. Here in the U.S., a lot of people misunderstand and constantly try to use free speech arguments where they don’t apply. Free speech just means citizens of the United States can’t be persecuted by the federal government for what they say. That’s it. It does not protect you from getting fired, suspended from school, kicked out of a business, arrested at an airport, etc., for saying something inflammatory or outside accepted norms. From what I can tell, in Canada, there isn’t such a detailed explanation of who enforces speech or more importantly, who can’t punish for something someone says. I always try to remember when reading news about other countries than the U.S. that things may not work the same.

    So how does Canada’s free speech apply here? Would these kids have grounds to say their rights were violated by the suspensions?

    1. “So how does Canada’s free speech apply here? Would these kids have grounds to say their rights were violated by the suspensions?”

      Our Charter works the same as your Bill of Rights in this case: it only protects individuals from government interference in their speech/expression. This school is not a government institution — it receives public funding, but its officials are not government officials, the latter of which is the key (legal) point — and so their constitutional right to free expression hasn’t been violated.

      There are probably broader moral or political rights to free expression which were certainly violated here, but that isn’t a constitutional issue: it’s a moral or political issue.

    2. Free speech … does not protect you from getting fired, suspended from school, kicked out of a business, arrested at an airport, etc., for saying something inflammatory or outside accepted norms.

      Not quite correct. The protections of the first amendment have been applied against not just the federal government, but the states as well via “incorporation” by the fourteenth amendment. This means that the police cannot *legally* arrest you merely for saying something inflammatory or outside accepted norms, even at an airport. Private schools are free to suspend their students for their speech. State universities are not. State high school and elementary schools can suppress speech that is likely to cause disruption, and they can fit a lot into that bucket.

  30. So Muslims kids are sent to Catholic schools to avoid sex education and are told to ignore the religious stuff? Why not send them to public schools and tell them to ignore the sex education stuff? That makes about as much sense!

    1. That’s just what I was thinking.

      Do those parents realize what they’re saying when they acknowledge that it’s easier to ignore religious indoctrination than it is to ignore sex?

      1. It’s a lot easier to ignore the religious stuff because that isn’t based on anything real, whereas the sexual education provides actual useful verifiable information.

        Or in other words: Ecumenism – Irreconcilable dogmas joining powers to deny people knowledge and stifle their spirits more efficiently.

    2. Maybe because people generally find it easier to ignore or dismiss positions that they are already inclined to disbelieve in than ignore or dismiss positions on which they have no pre-existing biases to overcome.

      It’s probably easier for those Muslim students to sit through Catholic education sessions because they have already been informed by their family and their religion, and perhaps their own ideas and conscience, that Catholicism is to be dismissed out-of-hand, but as it seems their parents and religion have deliberately allowed the Muslim students to learn as little about sex as possible (and in fact the parents are deliberately sending their children to the Catholic school in order that the students might continue to learn as little about sex as possible), the same students in a regular sex-ed class would likely have little to no pre-existing information about sex–so instead of looking at a sex-ed film and thinking, “my parents and my imam have told me that’s wrong, and I think it’s gross or wrong or makes me uncomfortable personally to learn this,” they’d probably be thinking, “geez, my parents and my imam have never talked to me about sex much at all. I don’t have much of an opinion yet myself. I wonder how I should feel about learning this?” That’s when they might start to find it educational, or at least intriguing.

  31. Funny how the Catholic church is obsessed with fetuses but gives lip service to wars, capital punishment, etc. Your life doesn’t count once you hit puberty in their eyes. As long as they keep the world overpopulated and desperate they are happy.

    If churches can dictate to schools then it is time we dictated to churches. Sorry but you can’t have mass on Sunday, it has to be Monday. And we will pick the priests. Have a good day.

  32. Having a pro-life day crosses the line between teaching and indoctrination. Not acceptable.

    I think it’s acceptable to teach pro-life, or have a pro-life day at a Catholic school. That’s what you’re choosing (or what’s being chosen for you at least) when you go to a Catholic school. They’re going to teach Catholic viewpoints and doctrine. That’s the whole point.

    What’s not acceptable, to me, is to try to force acceptance of these ideas or suppress appropriate expression of other views. Sure, have a day where we talk about how horrible abortion is and all the reasons you should be pro-life. But if a kid still doesn’t believe that way, they should be able to do so without interference, and they should still be able to express that (at least in the same ways the pro-life kids get to express themselves).

    Similarly, the Muslim kids at these schools should expect to be taught Catholic doctrines. But while they might be expected to know these doctrines (again, they’re at Catholic school), they shouldn’t be forced or expected to believe them and they should feel welcome to express other viewpoints at appropriate times.

    To me, the teachers’ reactions suggest that they’ve taken a horribly wrong approach. If I was the teacher, I’d go out of my way to be extra super-sensitive to the kids wearing the choice stickers, no matter how much I opposed their position. Those kids were doing a brave thing – and if I was a parent, I’d be pulling them out after this reaction. It’s a teacher’s job to fill a mind, not to control it.

  33. A Catholic School is a religious school, whether or not it is funded by tax payers or not, it is still a religious school.

    The Catholic religion does not believe in abortion period.

    The parents of these kids were not forced to send their children to the Catholic school – if they don’t agree with the religion perhaps they should exercise their choice to go to a non religious school?

    1. “The Catholic religion does not believe in abortion period.”

      But many Catholics are pro-choice.

    2. “if they don’t agree with the religion perhaps they should exercise their choice to go to a non religious school?”

      I call BS. The public should be allowed to enroll their child in any public school based on a variety of factors including location, quality of curriculum and peer group.

      The issue is that the Catholic school isn’t teaching Catholic doctrine in a classroom environment with open discussion, but rather that it’s using students as propaganda tools with no room for debate. In my opinion, it’s unethical in the public ethics sense, which is bad when public funds are involved. Even from the point of view of private ethics(or “morals”) the fact that they are not allowing opposing viewpoints is questionable.

    3. The parents of these kids were not forced to send their children to the Catholic school – if they don’t agree with the religion perhaps they should exercise their choice to go to a non religious school?

      The parents were not forced to send their kids to the Catholic school–but the children in question probably are forced to be sent to the school their parents pick; it’s the parents who can exercise their choice of school in this situation, not the students.

      Isn’t it possible that at least some of the parents of the protesting students may agree with the Catholic school’s and church’s abortion position? The kid who doesn’t agree with the religion might end up going to a religious school precisely because their parents are believers.

      The quote from the mom to the daughter merely states, “be careful about it, don’t make a big deal,” not “I agree with your pro-choice stance, honey.” For all we know, the parent could be pro-life, but also wish to allow her daughter freedom of action and speech, while also allowing her daughter to suffer the consequences of her protest (although I personally am disgusted/saddened by those consequences). It sounds to me like she is mostly concerned with her daughter’s safety during the protest and is allowing her to go ahead with the protest without commenting on her daughter’s actual stance one way or the other.

  34. Ontario is nothing! One of the Maritime provinces had (or still might have for all I know) seven different publicly funded religious school boards.

    Things like this impoverish all of the school boards involved due to the negative economies of scale involved.

    There was a referendum a few years back in Ontario about whether or not to “end the discrimination” by letting all religions have their own publicly funded schools. (What fun it would be when Scientology applied for theirs! Not to mention the Wiccans and the Jedi!) The turn out in my neighbourhood was about 70% as there are a large number of Orthodox Jewish families who currently put all of their, usually very large, families through OJ school on their own dime and they doubtless wanted equal treatment. The measure didn’t pass though.

    1. When was that, man – back in the ’40s? I grew up in the 60s, 70s and 80s going to school in all 3 Maritime Provinces, and they didn’t have any separate school boards, except for the Acadian school board in Nova Scotia. If you’re thinking of Newfoundland with their separate Catholic system), that ended back in the 90s (and Newfoundland isn’t part of the Maritimes anyway).

  35. My mother-in-law is a former Catholic H.S. principal in Ontario. Although she is a deeply religious person, she has renounced the Church because of its behavior in Canada and around the world

    That’s curious, I was just thinking that my parents, both of them Catholic, stopped going to Mass a year ago because they were fed up with the Italian Church prostituting itself to the centre-right government in exchange of money and political influence.

    Our serially-divorced-proven-adulterer-suspected-sex-offender-with-a-minor §PM once swore on public television and a bishop didn’t find nothing better to say that “well, we should contextualize…”, but they had no qualms a few years ago when they heavily interfered in the Italian politics to sunk a referendum who tried to give back to the Italian people basic reproductive rights canceled by the first Berlusconi’s government.

  36. “Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, this is Chewbacca. He is a Wookie, who lives on Kashyyyk, where they celebrate Life Day, a Wookie holiday. Why is a Catholic school on Earth celebrating a Wookie holiday? It makes no sense….”

  37. thing that always bugged me about the pro- choice/ pro life argument is simply this: One side allows the other side to exist, but only one side. Any argument that says the opposing argument shouldn’t be allowed to exist must be examined very carefully.

  38. Dean: “Take those stickers off, you’re not allowed to express that opinion”
    Student: “Fuck you, I can express any opinion I want to”
    Dean: “GTFO! We don’t have to teach people who are going to burn in hell for all eternity!”

    Sounds like the right reaction on the student’s part to me. Schools are a great place to learn that society really doesn’t want you to express yourself or be different.

  39. I wrote to the entire board of trustees:

    I was terribly disappointed to read about the sending home of students for sending home students who disagreed with the “school-sanctioned pro-life Day of Silence”. As a member Catholic, I teach my children to question beliefs they disagree with including questions of faith. To deny students the chance to discuss and debate a topic the school board should have forseen as heated, denys them a large part of their education as Catholics and tolerant members of society. Catholicism’s current stance on the fetus has been with us for only 130 years and many of our Saints have existing writings sanctioning abortion.

    The school board has failed as responsible educators and ruined an opportunity to engage with students about history, ethics, morals and context. I’m extremely disappointed. I hope you will reevaluate your position on denying students their voices and apologizing to students who expressed their ideas appropriately.

    In future, I hope you will leave such hot button topics off of the school board’s agenda and focus on students academic learning.

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