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Students can opt out of religious classes at Catholic school after complaint settled

Students in an art class. GETTY IMAGES/Caiaimage/Robert Daly

An Ontario Catholic school board is amending its policies to give students more flexibility to opt out of religious classes or activities.

The move by the Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board comes as a result of a human rights complaint lodged by a former student, who argued she was discriminated against when she sought an exemption from religious classes.

Under the terms of a settlement in the case, the board must prepare a policy giving students the option to opt out of specific religious classes or activities while maintaining the option to participate in others.

The new policy must also simplify and clarify the process for obtaining an exemption.

The settlement also states that the Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association will share the policy with all 29 Catholic boards in the province, explaining that it’s the result of a human rights complaint, and will urge boards to review their existing exemption policies.

The Trustees’ Association does not have the authority to compel boards to implement policy changes, but a lawyer representing the former student says the decision marks a positive step for students who want to have more religious freedom in school.