York school board review ‘deeply concerning’ to Ontario’s education minister

Click to play video: 'Government-ordered report into YRDSB uncovers dysfunction'
Government-ordered report into YRDSB uncovers dysfunction
WATCH ABOVE: The report on the York Regional District School Board, which also found poor leadership and infighting amongst members, gives 26 recommendations for the board to improve transparency and accountability. Marianne Dimain reports – Apr 11, 2017

Ontario’s Minister of Education is calling a report on the governance and equity of the York Region District School Board “deeply concerning.”

Mitzie Hunter appointed two investigators to conduct an urgent review of the school board in January, after several parents raised concerns about incidents surrounding discrimination, racism and Islamophobia.

In their report released Tuesday, Patrick Case and Suzanne Herbert found many of the trustees failed to exhibit even a “basic understanding of their role and responsibilities as elected leaders.” The investigators agreed with parents that some board members have shown a “disturbing lack of accountability” for the situation the board has found itself in.

A list of 26 recommendations has been made to help address the issues and improve public confidence in the board.

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The education minister says it concerns her that the report “describes feelings of alienation, marginalization and discrimination expressed by many of the board’s students, parents, staff and members of the community.”

“Racism in our schools and school boards is not acceptable,” said Mitzie Hunter in a written statement.

“Ontario’s students and parents must have assurances that their schools are safe and welcoming places to learn, and that they are environments of inclusivity and respect.”

Click to play video: 'Parents celebrate education minister’s call for urgent review of York Region District School Board'
Parents celebrate education minister’s call for urgent review of York Region District School Board

WATCH ABOVE: Two provincially-appointed investigators will review practices at the YRDSB in the wake of allegations of racism and Islamophobia. (Jan. 27)

Hunter says she has directed the board to implement eight immediate actions. They include immediately suspending all international travel, submitting a plan for governance and equity training for all board members, hiring a senior administrator responsible for ensuring equity, and having a human resources professional conduct a performance appraisal of the Director of Education.

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“I will be closely monitoring the progress and compliance on each direction carefully,” said Hunter.

If the board does not comply with the directions, the minister says she may exercise her authority to take further action against the board.

The report comes after the board was involved in two very publicly reported incidents of racism and Islamophobia. A Markham principle had shared anti-Islam posts online and Georgina school trustee Nancy Elgie used the N-word to refer to the mother of a black student.

Elgie resigned from the board several weeks after the incident.

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