School cross to be removed after parent complaint
The big, white cross on the side of St. Matthew's School in St. John's will be taken down because a parent complained to the Eastern School District about the religious symbol on the side of the school.
The parent felt that religion had no place in the public school system in Newfoundland and Labrador as it is a non-denominational system.
"Legal council advised us that if this complaint were to be carried to human rights, there's a high chance of success, of being successful," said Bruce Vey, the CEO of the Eastern School District.
Vey said the school board adopted a policy in February on school names and religious symbols.
"Our policy articulates a process that a religious denomination, a school council, or a parent can request, can formally request that a religious artifact be removed form a school."
School orginally part of Roman Catholic board
St. Matthew's School was built in the 1970s, when the province had a denominational school system, and St. Matthew's was part of a Roman Catholic School Board.
However, the province's denominational school system was replaced by a public, non-religious school system in 1998.
Another St. Matthew's parent, Cathy Browne, said she disagrees with removing the cross. "There was only one parent that complained about the cross being there," said Browne.
"This is the first case of anybody complaining about a cross being at the school. And I felt that it's only one person in a group of many. And I thought it wasn't very democratic for the cross to come down."
However, Browne said she is worried that the cross on St. Matthew's is just the start.
"If they're going to take the cross off the school I suspect the "saint" in St. Matthew's would be next. St. John's then perhaps, maybe it'll be called "John's" because "saint" might offend somebody," said Browne.
"I understand that there's different beliefs and different religions in St. John's, especially where it's growing so much, but also we should be tolerant and open minded and accepting of others and I think this is very close minded."
Public system, says Vey
Vey said his school board is sensitive to the province's culture, however, rules are rules.
"We live in a pluralistic society. Right now we have a public, non-denominational education system," said Vey.
"So our duty and responsibility when a complaint comes our way [is] we will do due diligence and follow up with that complaint."
There are many schools in Newfoundland and Labrador which have religious names or symbols on them, and Vey said each school board has its own policy on the matter.
However, Browne said she is unimpressed with both the parent's complaint and the school board's response.
"With all the other big issues going on in our community let alone the world, I think it's really pretty sad that this is what this person wants to hang her hat on," said Browne.
Workers with the Eastern School District will remove the cross from the school building this summer.