ICYMI: Racial incidents ignored by York board, families say

Appears that the Board may not be addressing the issues, particularly given that they have cancelled the student survey needed to provide better demographic and related data (Toronto school board carriers out a similar survey to assist targeting of groups that need additional help):

A teacher who warned the class to check their bags after a black student went into a change room alone, saying he didn’t trust the teen not to steal.

Elementary school kids repeatedly called the N-word by classmates — a slur one heartbroken mother was forced to explain to her 10-year-old daughter.

A teen, beaten and racially taunted by classmates in an incident captured on video and widely reported in the news, whose family says as soon as the cameras went away so did any effort by the board to deal with it.

These are examples of discrimination parents say their children have faced in York Region public schools — incidents they say the board has failed to properly address. Faced with inaction, some have looked outside the board, including to the province’s human rights tribunal, for resolution.

A spokesperson said the board couldn’t comment on specific cases, but “we can assure you that any matters of this nature brought to our attention are taken seriously, investigated thoroughly and acted on appropriately.”

Mom Charline Grant has filed a complaint with Ontario’s Human Rights Tribunal, saying there have been too many instances where her teenage son, the only black male at his Woodbridge high school, has been the target of staff because of his race and religion.

In an interview, Grant said she grew increasingly frustrated as her complaints went nowhere, and the troubles continued. Her son has been called “intimidating” for just looking at teachers, or “angry” when he speaks out, she said.

In the complaint, she said her son was singled out by a school coach for leaving practice early to attend a religious feast — the family is part of the small religious group referred to as Israelites — and then benched the next day because he must be “full” from eating. Now “he feels like he has no rights and his concerns are not taken seriously … We are greatly concerned for (our son). This stereotype and profiling that because he is black he is automatically a thief and he is guilty is greatly concerning to us,” she wrote, referring to the change room incident.

The school board has not yet filed a response to the complaint.

The board is also facing concerns over the recent, surprise shutdown of a committee aimed to support the “board’s commitment to equitable and inclusive schools and workplaces,” leaving many to wonder just how serious it is about serving its diverse population.

“Everything is swept under the rug,” said Shernett Martin, executive director of the Vaughan African Canadian Association, herself a certified teacher who has written curriculum for university students on inclusion.

“The board purports to be about inclusive education and equity,” but nothing is done. “What has been happening in the board has been going on for far too long, and it’s wrong.”

…However, one contentious decision came last December when the board cancelled the “Every Student Counts” student survey, similar to one routinely conducted by the Toronto public board to create targeted supports for groups of struggling kids.

York board chair Anna DeBartolo announced the news in a letter to members of the Equity and Inclusivity Committee. Members said the letter came after work and meetings with community members and religious leaders to get them onside. Previously, she had publicly stated it was merely “on hold.”

In the letter, obtained by the Star, DeBartolo told the committee, which pushed for the survey, that the board would only “collect additional student demographic data when the Ministry of Education mandates such a survey.” It’s unclear if the ministry will take such a step, though it is studying how it could be done.

The board has also cited the survey’s high cost, around $311,000, as a reason to kill it.

Source: Racial incidents ignored by York board, families say | Toronto Star

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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