The Chilliwack school board will vote on a new distribution of materials policy that makes no mention of religion or Bibles Tuesday.
“All material and information distributed within or through Chilliwack School District schools shall be in the best interests of students,” states the draft policy included in next week’s school board agenda
Authority to have the materials of recognized charities and other educational or community-service organizations distributed would rest firmly with the superintendent if the new policy were adopted.
At her discretion, the superintendent, would also be able to direct school principals to get written parent consent before certain materials were handed out.
In that case, the organization in question would provide the necessary number of consent forms, but school principals would be responsible for handing them out.
It was a parent consent form that first touched off the controversy about what should and shouldn’t be handed out at Chilliwack’s public schools last October.
Local parent Richard Ajabu complained to the district after his daughter was handed a permission form for a free Gideons Bible at her elementary school.
He said the brightly coloured brochure—which included the Gideons website address and a picture of a Gideon youth testament with pictures of smiling children above the title "Answer Book"—constituted “religious marketing.”
He called on the school board to ban the practice because he said it violated the BC School Act which states schools should be operated “on strictly secular and non-sectarian principles.”
The school board did vote to delete an anomalous administrative regulation that specifically endorsed the Gideons activity in November.
But Ajabu expressed concern that a general policy governing all materials handed out at schools would still allow for the Bibles,as it does in the Abbotsford school district.
He wanted the Chilliwack board to ban the Bibles explicitly in its new policy with a reference to the School Act.
The draft policy trustees will vote on Tuesday, however, includes no such reference and makes no mention of religion or Bibles.
And superintendent Evelyn Novak further reports that Gideons representatives were “supportive of the considerations presented regarding the draft policy.”
Novak also consulted with the district’s education policy advisory committee, the aboriginal education advisory committee, the district parent advisory council and her superintendent’s council.
The district also received two petitions (a 455-response petition from First Avenue Church and a 380-signature petition from the Chilliwack Alliance Church) that supported the free Bibles, while another 403-signature petition (69 from Chilliwack) from the BC Humanist Association called for an end to the Bibles.
The next public school board meeting starts at 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 12 at the school district office (8430 Cessna Dr.).
For more information, visit www.sd33.bc.ca.