Conduct unbecoming: removing Catholicism from the Catholic District School Board

di Joe Volpe del 30 December 2019

TORONTO - The Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB), at the behest of several Trustees, called a Special Emergency meeting for December 23, at six o’clock. Unusual both for timing and content.

The call had nothing to do with their mandate: the effective and efficient application of $1.089 Billion, across 17 categories, targeting educational outcomes for 90,692 students entrusted to their care, in a caring and nurturing environment based on Catholic values.

No, the meeting was not about how to design innovative strategies to equip students in their care with the “technical” and life skills necessary to be a productive and functioning citizen of our society. Nor was it about training the next generation to handle the communications tools most identified as basic elements for material success: math, science, language and the other observable and measurable “sciences”.

It was, instead, about how to proceed against one of their own fellow trustees with whom they disagree on the matter of gender identity. It is not a joke. The only item on the agenda was the report of the debate held in private – allegedly to censure Trustee Michael Del Grande for written statements submitted to and published by an online newspaper, Lifesites.

Two other Trustees (perhaps more, given the now cavernous divide on “moral issues” in a Catholic Board) with a direct line to an English-language – arguably anti-Catholic - daily to vent their di.erences were not similarly subjects of censure. Reporters for both were dutifully present for the show.

Since the alleged censure motion had not resulted in a final report in private session, Trustees determined to proceed to the prescheduled public session (a puzzling and questionable decision). The meeting quickly turned into a procedural embarrassment, to put it very mildly, for both Sta. and Trustees, from beginning to end.

To this observer, it seemed that some Trustees were determined to revisit the angst created by the debate in the previous two months on the merits of including “gender identity” (GI) in its Code of Conduct. The Board had been struggling with this issue since the start of the school year, in part because of a high incidence of bullying in its schools.

Yet, the TCDSB has allocated a supplement of $2,849,749 for 2019-2020 to provide for “Safe and Accepting Schools”. That is the equivalent of 2.6% of its annual Budget. The Provincial average is only 2% of yearly expenditures. Something is not working.

Pro-GI trustees, led by former Chair Maria Rizzo, under whose chairmanship the issue “surfaced”, badgered, harangued and interrupted delegations in favour Trustee Del Grande. Some members in the audience, perhaps emboldened by the rudeness of the Trustees heckled and shouted “hate speech” whenever those delegations ventured into Catholic values.

The Chair was visibly stressed as the meeting collapsed into spectacle. Two delegations – most likely brought in by those opposing Del Grande – poured gasoline on the fire. The president of the Teacher’s Union reminded Trustees that children look to them as role models (not to the teachers who are in front of them for the entire scholastic year). That union is about to embark on negotiations with their employer.

The other came to make the point that the Ontario Human Rights Code is the only guide/ model for behaviour…in Catholic schools. Those mirror the Minister of Education’s talking points.

Delegations with a Catholic message (United Society) lead by priests and/or Catholic laity were given short shrift or ignored. Similarly, for the organization called Parents as First Educators. They know something about raising children. They are also pro-life.

When they returned from the second private session, Trustee Rizzo’s exploded against TCDSB Staff. Pure theatre laced with hypocrisy designed to ruffle feathers or mask unsophisticated thought.

TCDSB’s Senior Sta. could barely contain their derision. The inhouse lawyer, unable to restrain her disgust with the Trustee’s behaviour, stormed out in a huff.

By now, the reader must be asking for the result of five hours of recrimination. The Board resolved to refer all future complaints regarding perceived or real infringements of the Trustees’ code of conduct to a soon-to-benamed “third party investigator”. That investigator would then report to the Board for action.

More money added to a bloated Safe and Accepting Schools Supplement.

To follow

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