Muslim kindergartener permitted to block out music
Bienville School in Saint-Michel.
Updated: Mon Dec. 19 2011 9:25:14 PM
MONTREAL — A kindergarten student in Saint-Michel will be allowed to wear a noise-reducing headset in class, because her parents’ say their religious beliefs don’t allow the five-year-old girl to listen to music.
Though music is an integral part of the kindergarten program, the principal of Bienville School decided to grant the accommodation request made by a Muslim family and allow their daughter to block out music at school.“The principal thinks the family is acting in good faith,” said Diane de Courcy, president of the Montreal School Commission. “(They) would have otherwise kept the child at home.”
Kindergarten is not mandatory, and teachers say if the student is being sent into the program, barring the new immigrant from certain activities isolates her from the rest of the class.
“I find it sad for the child and the teacher, who may have to redesign her teaching program as a result,” said Elaine Bertrand of union the Montreal Teachers’ Alliance.
The school and school board felt the decision was a fair compromise to build trust with the family and help the child integrate into the school system sooner.
“Once she’s in grade one, she’ll have to follow the same curriculum as everyone else,” said de Courcy.
Many teachers argue the issue is not strictly about music or religion, but rather the pressure they feel to reasonably accommodate a variety of demands from health-related issues to religion.
Montreal Teachers’ Alliance is asking for stricter guidelines for requests.
Education Minister Line Beauchamp said she instead supports the school’s individualized approach.
“It would be impossible to develop a framework to address such a wide variety of reasonable accommodation requests,” she said.