Board Superintendent Calls Op-Ed Shocking

A superintendent at the Greater Essex County District School Board is expressing shock after an opinion piece in Monday’s Toronto Sun suggested the board was exempting Muslim students from Remembrance Day ceremonies.

In the piece, columnist Ezra Levant takes the board to task over an email sent to principals at schools across Windsor-Essex. The email tells principals to be mindful some families may be reluctant to have their children attend municipal ceremonies. It suggests “meaningful alternate activities should be provided at schools for those families who do not wish their children to participate in any Remembrance Day ceremonies.”

Levant’s piece continues, “In case you were wondering which families they might be referring to, the school board didn’t say specifically but pointed teachers to two Muslim-themed websites, including the story about the first Muslim soldier in the Canadian Forces who wore a hijab, an Islamic head covering.”

Superintendent Sharon Pyke calls the insinuation “offensive” and nowhere near the truth. “Some of our families have called in, and expressed some safety concerns about their children being in the public Remembrance Day ceremonies,” she says. “So what we wanted to do was insure that our principals knew that given the recent tragedy in Ottawa that yes, some families may not want to be in the public type of ceremonies.”

Police increased security at Remembrance Day ceremonies across the region, and on Sunday armed officers could be seen watching the service at the cenotaph in downtown Windsor from nearby rooftops.

When asked if any of the families expressing those concerns were Muslim, Pyke responded, “Oh, I would have no clue.”

Pyke says the email includes a number of links, but does not single out one specific ethnic or religious group. “Because we live in the fourth most diverse city in Canada, there were different pictures and links that they (principals) could go to have a Remembrance Day ceremony with pictures of veterans.”

In an emailed response from BlackburnNews.com, Levant responds “Someone in the school system sent me a copy of the memo. One of our producers calls the board yesterday for comment, before my TV show and newspaper column were written. The wording of my commentaries speak for themselves and incorporate what the board told us. Today’s comments by Sharon Pike (sp) are an attempt at damage control. If you look at the memo, there is no mention whatsoever about security concerns. It is all about cultural concerns. She’s trying to save face by pretending it’s about security. It’s not.”

Levant has now declined an interview with BlackburnNews.com and says he is working on a new story based on information that has come to light since his Monday column appeared.