Cowichan school district policy provides Xmas guidelines

The Cowichan Valley school district is addressing the problem of how to integrate religious holidays into the school year.

Schools superintendent Joe Rhodes explained at the Nov. 5 board meeting that Policy 4420 (Cultural Recognition Policy Guidelines) is now in schools.

"We secured, through some legal assistance, creation of a document to provide guidelines on secular versus religious activities. We brought that to advisory, got some feedback and also took it to the District Parent Advisory Council and got some feedback and recommendations," he said.

There was a problem last year at an elementary school that escalated to the point where a teacher lost her job, causing angry supporters to demonstrate in March outside the school district offices.

Now that the December school concert season is on the way again, Rhodes explained that it was considered necessary to act.

"Given the timing of the year and the sensitivity around the winter season, it’s my pleasure to announce that we will be enacting those guidelines and that we will be working with the Cowichan Intercultural Society to try to activate the recommendations from the district parent advisory council in terms of a greater variety of secular activities across a greater variety of religions as well as incorporating cultural and religious ceremonies from First Nations," he said.

The document is a starting place, with room for expansion he said.

"It is intended to be a growing, living document but it’s a great first step. We’ve got very positive feedback from the principals’ association and from DPAC as well as from the advisory committee," Rhodes said.

"We presented it at our last principals’ meeting and that’s being activated in all our schools at this point."

"I appreciate the response from DPAC and I also appreciate that this is a living document," said Trustee Mike McKay. "The guidelines and the framework that underlie it are solid but some of the examples will evolve over time as examples need to. It’s an important step and will be clear and helpful to everyone."

The multicultural recognition policy still sets out to recognize a school community’s multicultural nature and rich heritage "through respectful practices that foster a sense of belonging and being welcomed."

Self-esteem and pride in heritage are important parts of this, it says, but also adds that it is necessary to "acknowledge cultural events, festivals and celebrations in a respectful manner that promotes understanding of diversity".

If necessary, an accommodation plan can be developed and written to deal with specific situations that arise.

On the subject of cultural events and celebrations, some written guiding principles have been introduced.

Schools are expected to acknowledge cultural events, festivals and celebrations "in a respectful manner that promotes understanding of diversity" by using classroom discussion as well as activities connected with cultural events.

"The purpose of these discussions and activities is to promote cultural understanding consistent with the secular mandate of the public school system," the guidelines say.

There are some specific details on the subject of secular versus religious recognition, calling on schools to use holiday decorations and activities that include secular symbols associated with holidays or cultural festivals, with the aim of reflecting diversity within schools.

"Secular" means non-religious in nature.

Some holidays, such as Kwanzaa, are secular in origin – not connected to a particular religious faith. Some other holidays such as Christmas have religious origins but are also celebrated as secular holidays, the guidelines say.

The idea is to allow celebrations, but to do it in a secular manner.

Some examples of secular symbols associated with Christmas include Santa Claus, Christmas trees, candy canes, gifts, lights, poinsettias, snowflakes, and bells. Songs such as Frosty the Snowman and Jingle Bells are secular because they do not have a religious basis. In contrast, a nativity scene depicting the birth of Jesus or Christmas carols about the birth of Jesus such as Silent Night or Joy to the World are religious in origin.

At Easter, secular symbols could include bunnies, ducklings and Easter eggs as compared to religious symbols like the cross or anything depicting the death or resurrection of Christ.

A secular symbol associated with Hanukkah is the dreidel. In contrast, the menorah is predominantly considered a religious symbol.

A secular symbol associated with Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) is apples and honey which represents the hope for a sweet new year while a ram’s horn (shofar) is a religious symbol.

"The district will add more examples to include additional cultural events, festivals and celebrations as the need arises," according to the guidelines.

Just Posted

Sierra Acton, regional district director for Shawnigan Lake. (file photo)
New parkland in Shawnigan creating connections

Used to created parking for the popular Masons Beach Park

By protesting uninvited in First Nations’ territories, conservationists are acting in a neocolonial or paternalistic manner, says Huu-ay-aht Chief Robert Dennis. Photo by Heather Thomson
A closer look: do Vancouver Island First Nations support the war in the woods?

First Nations/environmentalist old growth alliance uneasy, if it exists at all

Chris Wilkinson
Chris Wilkinson column: This could be the worst thing done to you during the pandemic

As a result, all of us will contend with more ‘scarcity’ thinking and mindset.

The Crofton trailer park home where the bodies of two people were found. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Mom still waiting for answers after daughter and her fiance found dead in Crofton

Pair discovered dead in their Crofton home in May identified as Rachel Gardner and Paul Jenkins

FILE – Perry Bellegarde, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, takes part in an event on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, July 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Indigenous Peoples Day must be a ‘call to action’, says Assembly of First Nations chief

Discovery of children at Kamloops residential school site must lead to change, Perry Bellegarde says

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
VIDEO: Border quarantine to soon lift for fully vaccinated Canadians

Eligible travellers must still take multiple COVID-19 tests

FILE - In this Nov. 29, 2020, file photo, Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib leaves the field after an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons in Atlanta. Nassib on Monday, June 21, 2021, became the first active NFL player to come out as gay. Nassib announced the news on Instagram, saying he was not doing it for the attention but because “I just think that representation and visibility are so important.” (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)
Nassib becomes first active NFL player to come out as gay

More than a dozen NFL players have come out as gay after their careers were over

Penticton Indian Band Chief Greg Gabriel speaks to the Sacred Hearts Catholic Church burning down early Monday morning, June 21, 2021. (Monique Tamminga Western News)
Penticton band chief condemns suspicious burning of 2 Catholic churches

Both Catholic church fires are deemed suspicious, says RCMP

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

COVID-19 daily cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day moving average to June 17, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infections drop to 90 on Sunday, 45 Monday

Pandemic spread dwindles as 77% of adults receive vaccine

Emergency vehicles are parked outside of the Wintergreen Apartments on Fourth Avenue. (SUSAN QUINN / Alberni Valley News)
Port Alberni RCMP investigate stabbing on Fourth Avenue

Two men were found with ‘significant’ injuries near Wintergreen Apartments

A blood drive in support of 1-year-old Rielynn Gormley of Agassiz is scheduled for Monday, June 28 at Tzeachten First Nation Community Hall in Chilliwack. Rielynn lives with type 3 von Willebrand disease, which makes it difficult for her to stop bleeding. (Screenshot/Canadian Blood Services)
Upcoming blood drive in honour of Fraser Valley toddler with rare blood condition

The Gormley family has organized a blood drive in Chilliwack on June 28

One Reconciliation Pole and two Welcome Figures were unveiled during a ceremony in honour of truth and reconciliation on National Peoples Indigenous Day at the Vancouver School District in Vancouver, B.C., on Friday, June 21, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Horgan marks Indigenous Peoples Day by urging recognition of systemic racism

National Indigenous Peoples Day has been marked in Canada since 1996

A man makes his way past signage to a mass COVID-19 vaccination centre at the University of Toronto’s Mississauga campus during the COVID-19 pandemic in Mississauga, Ont., on Monday, May 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Canadians encouraged to see mRNA shots as interchangeable as more 2nd doses open up

Doctors urge people not to hesitate if offered Moderna after getting Pfizer for their first shot

Most Read