Toronto Catholic school board to include gender identity, family status in Code of Conduct


For months, four terms were at the heart of a values battle at the Toronto Catholic District School Board on what should and shouldn't be grounds for discrimination. 

But after a lengthy meeting Thursday night, gender identity, gender expression, marital status and family status are now part of the board's Code of Conduct. 

"It's the lay of the land," Board of Trustees Chair Maria Rizzo said, a proponent of getting the terms included. "We've taken steps to respect all people in word, in action and in law."

The terms will now be included along with those like race, citizenship, skin colour and ancestry on grounds that must be respected. 

The board's final vote was 8-4 after a seven-hour meeting, which capped off months of arguments over what the terms would mean for Catholic teaching going forward. 

Opponents have said they're not consistent with Catholic values, while the motion to include the terms had the blessing of the Archdiocese of Toronto before the meeting started. 

Despite the victory for her side, the discontent isn't lost on Rizzo. 

"Just because we do it in word and action and law, doesn't mean that it's going to overnight change attitudes," she said. 

One of the most controversial stories to come out of the debate was over the removal of a family picture of a student and her two mothers from a classroom a few years ago. 

Rizzo said that's the kind of discrimination that will now be prohibited in writing, but it's also up to administrators and teachers to follow through. 

"I am hopeful that it's not going to happen," she said. 

The board's decision came after a subcommittee opted not to include the terms late last month, prompting Education Minister Stephen Lecce to weigh in. 

"My message to the board is quite clear," he said October 31st. "My expectation is that every child irrespective of their can see themselves reflected in schools and more importantly that they will adhere to the Ontario Human Rights Code." 

After the vote, Lecce released a statement applauding it. 

“I express my support for TCDSB affirming the importance of human rights and human dignity for all children. I have long believed that every child should see themselves reflected in their class, curriculum, and school community. Today, we can say with confidence that they do." he said. 

As for the fact four members and many parents are against the terms, Rizzo had a simple message. 

"Everybody is God's child," she said.