Toronto School Board Refused to Promote Event with Nobel-Winning Critic of ISIS

Also, the school board did the same for a book club featuring Marie Heinein who was a Canadian defense lawyer during a high-profile sexual assault case. “Tanya Lee, who has organized the book club for about four years, said she … was told the school board’s equity department felt the lawyer would send the wrong message.” You can read the Toronto Globe & Mail (Caroline Alphonso):

Teen girls can join the A Room of Your Own Book Club to discuss a text in virtual spaces with authors. School principals and teachers promote the events to their students….

Tanya Lee has been organizing the book club for four years. She said that she was informed in October by the superintendent of schools she works with, that TDSB schools wouldn’t promote the event with Ms. Henein. Ms. Lee stated that she was informed by the equity section of the school board that the lawyer sent the wrong message.

They told me straight up ‘no’. [Ms. Henein]Ms. Lee said that Jian Ghomeshi was being defended and she did not know how to explain this to the little girls.”

Ms. Henein, who became nationally prominent when she represented Mr. Ghomeshi, a former CBC broadcaster, at his 2016 sexual-assault trial, wrote Only the Truth: Memoir….

The school board spokeswoman later said that there was a “misunderstanding” as the equity department did not approve or review books submitted for book clubs. Globe & Mail, the spokesman “said in an e-mail … that both books are being reviewed by board staff, as is standard practice for books being distributed to students in TDSB schools, ‘and we hope to be in a position to approve in the near future.'”

Public schools, and of course private schools, are free to decide which book club invites they wish to send to students. This includes based on what the books say. That is the American First Amendment law’s general position (unless the school has set up an exclusive public forum and has chosen to send out such invites in indiscriminately to its students. This is rare.

The problem is with the school official’s particular choices: (1) The decision that talking about ISIS’s atrocities is somehow not “equitable, culturally relevant and responsive” because ISIS is an extremist Islamic group, and (2) the judgment that you can’t “explain … to little girls” that defendants—including ones accused of sex crimes—are entitled to a lawyer, and are presumed innocent until proven guilty (Ghomeshi wasn’t proved guilty, but that’s largely beside the point). These choices by school officials are deeply flawed. I pray that the school board will reverse their decision.