A Hamilton, Ont.-area Christian father is suing his children’s public school board after they refused to allow him to withdraw his children from controversial lessons on sexuality.
Dr. Steve Tourloukis, a dentist, says the suit comes after he has been asking for accommodation from the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board since Sept. 2010. A member of the Greek Orthodox Church, he has a daughter in Grade 1 and a son in Grade 4.
At a press conference, Tourloukis said “(I want them) to acknowledge my inherent parental rights to direct the spiritual and moral education of my own children. They’re my kids, not the government’s, not the Hamilton-Wentworth School Board’s. I don’t believe that teachers are ‘co-parents’ with equal say in my children’s religious beliefs.”
Tourloukis filed an application Sept. 7 with the Ontario Superior Court seeking a court order declaring that as the parent of his children, he is the final authority over his children’s education. The order would require the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board to provide him with advance notification of any class, session or material to be covered which conflicts with his sincerely held religious beliefs.
“My request is reasonable. Just give me advance notice of lessons, activities or materials which touch upon certain subjects, and if I deem it necessary, permit me to withdraw my kids from that particular class or exercise,” he explained.
Dalton McGuinty’s Ministry of Education has upheld the right of parents to withdraw their children from classes where instruction violates the family’s beliefs. But they have failed to enforce the policy.
In a statement to LifeSiteNews about whether she supports the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board’s decision to forbid religious accommodation to students seeking to withdraw from classes dealing with homosexuality, Education Minister Laurel Broten said school boards may refuse parents’ requests for religious accommodation if they deem fit.
“Boards have the autonomy and flexibility to make accommodations based on individual requests, on a case by case basis,” Broten told LifeSiteNews. “We will continue to support a province-wide curriculum, and local approaches to religious accommodation.”
The Toronto District School Board has a formal policy forbidding withdrawals from its radical pro-homosexual curriculum and even of notifying parents in advance. Board chair Chris Bolton has insisted exemptions will “not be condoned.”
The Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board appears to be adopting a similar policy. In 2010, an instruction document for teachers that was leaked to the media laid out the school board’s position that they do not “condone” children being removed from classes on homosexuality just as they would not when it comes to classes on discrimination related to race or disability.
The document, distributed at a professional development day on “equity,” included “quick responses” for teachers when parents object to “anti-homophobia” curriculum.
“This is not about parent rights. Children have the right to an inclusive education free from discrimination,” read one response. “You can teach your child your own values at home. Public schools teach everyone about respecting diversity and valuing everyone,” read another.
Tourloukis’ lawyer is Albertos Polizogopoulos, and the lawsuit is backed by The Parental Rights in Education Defense Fund, a non-profit organization.
At a press conference Monday organized by the Defense Fund, Tourloukis explained that the lawsuit has only come after repeated failed attempts to secure religious accommodation from the board.
He said in the spring of 2010 he had attended a meeting on the board’s new equity policy, where officials told the angry crowd of parents that the board would provide religious accommodation when requested.
Several weeks later, however, he received a copy of the board’s “quick responses” for teachers, and so wrote in requesting an exemption for his children. The board refused.
He replied, pointing out that the board’s own equity policy guarantees religious accommodation, and he was then invited to a meeting with the school’s principal and the board’s equity principal.
“During this meeting, which lasted over an hour and a half, I was repeatedly told that to permit my children to leave the class during certain lessons would somehow be discrimination against other children,” he explained.
“The solution offered to me was rather insulting. It was suggested I should leave the school board and enroll my children in private school or try homeschooling,” he continued. “Therefore, to accommodate the religious beliefs of my family in a manner that has been previously endorsed by the Ministry of Education – by opting out of certain lessons – would somehow be to discriminate against some children.”
“However, telling my family that we were no longer welcome in the school system because of our beliefs was not considered discriminatory. I was stunned by the hypocrisy,” he added.
Lou Iacobelli, chairperson of The Parental Rights in Education Defense Fund, told reporters that they “reject the notion that teachers and educational bureaucrats are ‘co-parents’ and thus have an equal right with the parents to direct the moral education of children.”
“We have a case of a school board not only seeing itself as being an ‘equal’ co-parent, but in fact, as having a superior right over the parent to influence which religious beliefs their children will eventually embrace as their own, even if it means contradicting what the parents tell them at home,” he continued.
“They essentially told the father of two elementary school children that his religious beliefs must be suppressed in the name of ‘equity.’ The violation of these long-recognized rights should be offensive to all parents,” he added.
LifeSiteNews.com did not hear back from the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board by press time.
This article is taken from articles that originally appeared at LifeSiteNews.com on Sept. 10 and Sept. 12 and are used with permission.