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DDSB trustees vote to defer changes to presentation

DAN CEARNS, The Standard

DURHAM: The Durham District School Board (DDSB) of Trustees has voted to defer proposed bylaw changes which would regulate conversation in the public question period and presentations to the board, back to the governance and policy committee.

At a meeting, on Monday, May 15th, trustees saw a number of proposed changes to the consolidated bylaws.

In the early portions of trustee meetings, the board allows members of the public to come to the podium and ask up to two questions each, about school board-related issues.

Some of the proposed changes, to presentation rules at the board’s standing committee meetings, included: having the chair of the meeting determine whether the issue or matter is within the scope of the board; making sure the presentation is in line with the board’s “commitment to the Ontario Human Rights Code, the Board’s Human Rights Policy and Procedures and [the] Indigenous Education Policy and Procedures;” and making sure the presentation would allow the committee sufficient time to conduct their business.

A proposed change to the rules for the question period was similar, in that the board would not entertain questions which “are contrary to the Board’s commitment to the Ontario Human Rights Code, the Board’s Human Rights Policy or [the] Indigenous Education Policy and Procedures.”

Oshawa trustee Linda Stone called these conversations “a slippery slope.” “We are already sliding down this slope,” she said. “Our board should be seeking good questions and open discussion around difficult topics.”

Trustee Stone’s first motion to table the conversation was defeated. When an issue is tabled, it is effectively deferred, but there is no discussion on the topic until a trustee makes a new motion to untable it, and there is no set date for the issue to be discussed again. Trustee Stone then put forth a new motion to defer portions of the bylaw back to the governance and policy committee.

Pickering trustee Stephen Linton agreed with taking this avenue. “This is a vote for not just our term, but this is a vote for the future,” he explained. Trustee Linton later added, he was “not comfortable making a decision now.”

Student Trustee Ben Cameron argued trustees have had enough time already to discuss this issue. “This has been in front of trustees for over two months now,” he said. The student trustee added with this issue remaining unresolved, there are opportunities for presenters to use “dehumanizing language.”

Oshawa trustee Shailene Panylo stated, a motion to defer is “just wasting time,” unless trustees provide input to the committee on what they would like to see changed about these amendments.

But Whitby trustee Christine Thatcher explained, the deferral will allow the committee to make sure “we have appropriate wording here.”

At this meeting’s question period, the meeting had to be recessed twice, as the crowd reacted loudly to answers staff members provided the public.

The Durham chapter of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario and the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation District 13 put out a joint statement, on Wednesday, May 17th, calling what happened at that meeting concerning.

The two unions added in the statement, they “condemn all acts of hatred” and are “deeply concerned about the safety and well-being of marginalized members of our school communities.” The two unions demanded “violence and hate not be tolerated in any setting, including school board meetings.”

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