Dr. Steve Tourloukis filed an application against the Hamilton Wentworth District School Board in which he sought a court order declaring that as a parent , he is the final authority over his children's education. (Stan Behal/Toronto Sun)
TORONTO - A Hamilton father has launched a court battle against the local public school board, accusing education officials of refusing to accommodate his Christian beliefs on marriage, family and sexuality.
Steve Tourloukis, who has two children in elementary schools in the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB), said he believes the board attempts to accommodate parents of other faiths, including Muslims and Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Tourloukis said he is supportive of these other families, but wants the same treatment.
School officials will not agree to his requests that he be advised in advance of any lessons that might contradict his family’s Greek Orthodox beliefs and be allowed to remove his children from class if he considers it appropriate, he said.
“My children are my own, I own them. They don’t belong to the school board,” Tourloukis told a media conference Monday at Queen’s Park.
The dentist, whose wife works for the HWDSB, said he is not an extremist “by any stretch of the imagination,” but wants to teach his children about marriage, family and sexuality according to the tenets of his faith.
School officials suggested he put his children in private school or home school them, but refused to allow him to pull his kids out of class because it would be “discriminatory” to other children, Tourloukis said.
His lawyer, Albertos Polizogopoulos, said the court action filed Friday seeks no money, but, if successful, would impel the board to accommodate the family’s faith.
“He wants to be involved (in his children’s education),” Polizogopoulos said.
Ontario Education Minister Laurel Broten said it’s the obligation of local school boards to provide religious accommodation.
As an example, parents have asked that their children not dance, and the students were instead allowed to write a story about music, Broten said.
“That being said, our evidence-based curriculum needs to be taught right across the province whether you’re in Timmins or Toronto ... we’ve taken the politics out of it since 2003,” Broten said.
A response was not immediately available from the HWDSB.