York Region District School Board trustees have elected a new chair after parents called for a shake-up after allegations of systemic racism across the region.
Loralea Carruthers, the trustee for East Gwillimbury and Whitchurch-Stouffville, was voted as the board’s chair during a meeting Tuesday evening. She replaced Anna DeBartolo, the trustee for Vaughan Wards 1 and 2.
The change follows a press conference Friday where parents and community representatives announced details of multiple human rights complaints filed against the board, including complaints about a Markham principal who allegedly posted Islamophobic articles on Facebook as well as a 2014 incident where a black teenager was called the n-word and beaten by several white students.
As part of the human rights complaints, the coalition also recommended mandatory equity and anti-racism training for senior staff and teachers, implementation of an equity audit, the appointment of an education ombudsman or commissioner and a public issuance of an apology by the board.
Before the meeting, DeBartolo issued a statement to Global News saying she stands by her work as chair and is committed to the principles of a strong public education system.
“I am very proud of the work of the Board of Trustees, we are very committed to student achievement and well-being of all our students,” she said.
Ontario’s Minister of Education Mitzie Hunter recently asked the board to submit an anti-racism plan by Jan. 13.
Charline Grant and her husband have three children in the YRDSB and she said they filed a human rights claim against the board in February alleging 70 incidents of discrimination.
Grant attended Tuesday’s vote and she said she feels like she has been heard.
“(I am) feeling that finally someone is listening. Finally our voices… it’s not in vain. All my tears, all my fight, all the late nights and all the research has not been in vain,” she told Global News.
“In all honesty, what we really want is to partner with the board. That’s what we want. I just don’t want to do this fight anymore.”
Grant said she hopes Carruthers will listen to the recommendations made on Friday and meet with concerned parents.
Marianne Dimain and David Shum contributed to this report