It might not mean the end of Bibles in local public schools, but superintendent Evelyn Novak is recommending the Chilliwack school board scrap a regulation that endorses the distribution of Gideon Youth Testaments to Grade 5 students with parental consent.
In a brief report included in the board’s upcoming Nov. 13 public meeting agenda, Novak recommends the board delete the regulation as “an anomaly to standard board procedure.”
She further recommends the board direct the board policy committee to come up with a policy for the “distribution of materials.”
The recommendations come after the district sought and received legal advice in response to complaints from a local parent.
Richard Ajabu, whose daughter was given a glossy and colourful permission form for a free Bible at her school, said the Gideons' activity and the regulation that endorses it violate the BC School Act, which states public schools must be conducted on "strictly secular and non-sectarian principles."
But it's unclear whether deleting administrative regulation 518 Tuesday would mean the end of free Bibles in Chilliwack public schools.
Administrative regulations, which are developed by the superintendent and don't need board approval, normally exist only to "provide the detailed procedures" for implementing policies approved by the board, according to School District No. 33's policy manual.
The Gideons regulation, however, appears to exist in a policy vacuum since the Chilliwack school district doesn't currently have a policy for the distribution of materials.
If the board votes to delete the Gideon regulation Tuesday, it will be up to Novak to decide whether or not to suspend the group's activity until a formal policy is in place.
“In the absence of board policy relating to a specific situation, the superintendent, pursuant to authority provided in the School Act, regulations and ministerial orders, may act at the superintendent's discretion,” reads the School District No. 33 policy manual.
If trustees vote to direct the board policy committee to develop a policy on what can and can't be handed out in local schools, that policy would have to come back to the board at a future public meeting for approval.
Details about the legal advice the board got on its Bible policy have not been disclosed publicly, and Novak and board chair Louise Piper have both declined to comment on the matter until it comes before the board at Tuesday's meeting.
The Nov. 13 regular public meeting starts at 7 p.m. at the school district office (8430 Cessna Drive).