Public school board under fire for “Free Palestine” remark in new dress code

The Thames Valley District School Board (TVDSB) is facing backlash from London’s Palestinian community for suggesting the slogan “Free Palestine” could be used to promote or incite violence.

The School Board recently posted new student dress guidelines on its website. In the FAQ section, TVDSB used the “Free Palestine” T-shirt as an example of a “divisive political slogan” that could lead to violence.

Thomas Woodley, President of Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East and Nehal AL Tarhuni, president of the Canadian Palestinian Social Association in London, expressed their concerns about such anti-Palestinian rhetoric. AL Tarhuni was particularly concerned about how the news would affect students of Palestinian background.

Both Woodley and AL Tarhuni called on the TVDSB to consider the cultural sensitivities surrounding the “Free Palestine” movement and to better educate staff and students on what the slogan really means.

An FAQ section containing controversial remarks has now been removed from the student dress code. TVDSB Education Director Mark Fisher issued a statement acknowledging the school board’s error and apologizing for the harm it caused the community.

“Thames Valley Regional School Board leadership is actively meeting with the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) and the Hikm Public Affairs Committee to discuss next steps in taking responsibility and repairing the damage,” the statement said.

Members of the Palestinian community have called for further action. Many have condemned the school board on social media for making offensive comments.

The TVDSB has yet to follow up on its initial statement.

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