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Education minister tells YRDSB it must honor the Queen Monday

York Region District School Board had initially advised staff to avoid discussion or commemoration of Queen Elizabeth II’s death

Schools across York Region District School Board (YRDSB) will be taking a moment of silence in honor of Queen Elizabeth on Monday after the Ministry of Education instructed them to do so, a representative for the board said.

“This Wednesday afternoon, we received updated instructions from the Ministry of Education regarding a moment of silence and other potential activities and we have sent that message to schools. We will continue to follow the province’s requests to commemorate her death and provide staff members with resources to respond to potential questions from children,” said Licinio Miguelo, senior manager of corporate communications at YRDSB.

This comes after a memo went out to schools on Sept. 9 advising them on how to address the death of Queen Elizabeth.

“The board sent a tip sheet to school administrators last Friday, prior to the provincial announcement of plans for Sept. 19. It is common practice for us to provide resources to educators on responding to global events, particularly those regarding death. Our focus is always to ensure children are supported while in our classrooms. In a region as richly diverse as ours, there will be different reactions to the news of the death of Queen Elizabeth II,” Miguelo said.

The memo stated conversations about the Queen’s death could be triggering and the topic should be avoided, as well as any tributes to Queen Elizabeth.

In response, Minister of Education Stephen Lecce has directed the board — and all schools across the province — to honor the Queen on Monday, which the province has declared a day of mourning.

“We have made clear our direction that all schools are to recognize the profound impact of Queen Elizabeth II’s lifelong and unwavering devotion to public service,” he said in a statement. “I have directed this board to implement the province’s expectation, honor the Queen on the date of her funeral, and enrich students with a strong understanding of the values ​​and enduring legacy of Canada’s constitutional democracy.”

The community has expressed a mixed reaction on social media.

Bruce Yu, a former student trustee with the board called YRDSB’s approach shameful on Twitter.

“There is nothing wrong with teachers and students discussing the Queen’s legacy and her devotion to public service,” he said.

Journalist Noor Javed expressed her thanks for how her child’s teacher chose to discuss the Queen’s death and colonialism.

“Grateful my kid’s teacher in the YRDSB used this moment to discuss the legacy of colonialism and how everyone may not be feeling the same way after the Queen’s death – sparking a robust discussion. Getting kids to think critically should be the goal, not blindly following orders,” she said on Twitter.

A Twitter account called YRDSB Kids Deserve Better called the directive from Lecce a “dictator move.”

“We are [100 per cent] with YRDSB on this. The [Queen] is a symbol of a horrible colonial past (+ present). Students should be prioritized, not the monarchy’s feelings,” he said.

Another person on Twitter, Sara Faulkner, who said in her bio that she is a history and politics teacher in YRDSB, simply replied to the news of Lecce’s directive and said “Ummm. No.”

YRDSB had previously expressed its condolences after the passing of Queen Elizabeth. In a tweet on Sept. 8, the day she died, the board said, “Flags at provincial buildings across the province, including YRDSB schools, will be flown at half-mast on the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Our thoughts are with the royal family, and all those around the world mourning her passing.”

Monday, Sept. 19, the province has opted to have a day of mourning for the Queen, however, this is not a holiday and schools will be open.

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