Credits: Stan Behal/Toronto Sun
Durham's public school board has called in the language police.
Sweeping new guidelines introduced to Durham teachers and staff this fall intend to police how teachers speak to their students, parents and each other.
The 19-page document instructs teachers not to tell racist jokes in the classroom, cut out all references to "man" and asks them not to call someone hailing from Korea, Korean.
"Because it is a guideline there are no specific sanctions," said board spokesman Andrea Pidwerbecki. "We haven't had a single complaint. I think people have found it to be helpful."
The guideline was developed in response to a provincial equity and inclusive education policy introduced in 2009. That document was created to help reduce gender, race and sexual orientation-based discrimination.
But Durham's guidelines get very specific with for teachers.
"Avoid sexist, racist, related jokes homophobic/transphobic, and/or religious stories, jokes, etc.," the guidelines say, adding. "Avoid statements or labels that convey prejudice."
When referring to racial or cultural groups the guideline tells teachers to avoid the terms Pakistani, Afghan, Korean, Indian or Chinese. Instead, use the appropriate country name, "a person from Pakistan" the guideline says.
To ensure job titles are not misconstrued as a role specific to one sex, the document lays out "preferred terms" and "terms to avoid."
Instead of "mailman," teachers should use "postal carrier." Instead of "policeman," educators are advised to say "police officer." Instead of "janitor," "custodian" is the preferred word, according to the policy.
The document also instructs on the use of words containing "man".
Instead of "mankind," it recommends the use of "human beings." Instead of "manpower," teachers should say "workforce." The policy suggests using "average person" instead of "common man."
Board staff, in conjunction with a team of teacher and principals spent two months writing the guidelines after consulting with employee and cultural groups, Pidwerbecki said.
No consultants were hired to create the document, she said.
"The only cost associated with it was for printing," she said. "Each school got a copy of it. We're looking at under $500 for printing."
When asked if it's necessary to instruct teachers not to tell racist jokes in class, Pidwerbecki said these are just "helpful" reminders.
But federal Immigration and Multicuturalism Minister Jason Kenney's office took a dim view of the use of school board resources for the guidelines.
"We don't think that any of these commonly used terms are offensive," said Kenney's press secretary, Alexis Palvich.
"According to the English dictionary a person from Korea is called a Korean," she said. "Suggesting that Korean is an offensive word is just silly."