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School board wrong to defy province on sex ed., city councillor says

Michael Vagnini says ignoring rules sends wrong message to students
Michael Vagnini. (Supplied)

Ward 2 Coun. Michael Vagnini is wading into school board politics, criticizing the Rainbow District School Board for defying the province when it comes to the sex-ed curriculum.

Vagnini attended Tuesday's meeting, which made headlines because of the conflict with rebellious trustee Larry Killens. But Vagnini said the board “crossed a line” at the meeting by deciding not to follow new sex education guidelines.

“The trustees were informed by the board that, in effect, they would be defying the provincial mandate regarding sex-ed,” Vagnini wrote in a letter to

“There were no objections and one trustee even went so far as to commend the board on doing so 'in spite of the current government.' 

“While I appreciate their right to have and express differing opinions, I also believe they still have a mandate to comply with current regulations and directives in doing due diligence as trustees. To not do so demonstrates that they are not only prepared to ignore provincial mandates but that they will openly defy them.”

Norm Blaseg, Rainbow's director of education, said earlier this month there is no coherent plan in place for teachers to use the former curriculum, which dates to the 1990s.

“We’ve moved on since then — and unless the ministry directs us through a memo and is providing us with a new curriculum and the professional development that goes with it,” Blaseg told the Toronto Star. “Teachers who were hired in the last three years — there’s no context for the (old) curriculum.

“This is very challenging for boards,” he said, adding “it’s an unusual path that the new government is going. Unless they address all of those challenges, I don’t see us moving away from the current curriculum.”

But Vagnini argued in his letter that Rainbow is not acting “in the best interest of school children. 

“Students will be learning from this that; if they so wish, they can openly defy all rules and regulations put forward by the board and by their school authorities or for that matter any other rules and regulations,” he wrote. “There was a student trustee sworn in at last night’s meeting. The message given to that student trustee was, if you don’t like the rules, just ignore them.”

Defying the province is a slippery slope, Vagnini said, once that sets “a dangerous precedent and puts the entire system of governance at risk. 

“School boards are elected to administer the schooling system within the policies and regulations set by those elected to do so. Provincial MPPs and federal MPs are elected to set policy.”

It's ironic that the school board punished Killens for not following the rules, he said, while opening defying rules themselves. 

“In my opinion, the board actions have far more serious and far reaching consequences than the actions of that trustee,” Vagnini wrote. “Should not the same standards then apply to the balance of the trustees for their actions regarding provincial policies?”


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