The York Region District School Board (YRDSB) has apologized to a parent after it says it failed to respond to complaints about racism and the use of a racist slur toward the parent by a former trustee.
“The board acknowledges the finding from the ministerial review report that the reviewers heard parents and community members characterize the board’s responses to their complaints as hostile, dismissive, arrogant and inappropriate,” YRDSB interim director Kathi Wallace said during a board meeting Tuesday evening.
“The board apologizes to parents and community members that this was how they experienced the board’s response to human rights complaints, including complaints about anti-black racism and has committed … to taking proactive steps to improve its response to such matters.”
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The apology comes in the wake of two incidents of racism and Islamophobia, prompting the Ontario Ministry of Education to launch a review of the YRDSB and issue 26 recommendations to help address the issues and improve public confidence in the board.
One incident involved a Markham principal who had shared anti-Islamic posts online and the other centred on Georgina school trustee Nancy Elgie, who used the N-word to refer to Charline Grant, the mother of a black student. Elgie eventually resigned from her position after the incident.
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Grant also filed complaints with the Ontario Human Rights Commission about how her children were being treated at school. The body recently held a hearing on the matter.
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Meanwhile, during Tuesday’s meeting, Wallace addressed Grant directly.
“The board also acknowledges the review’s … criticism of its failure to respond appropriately to the use of a racist slur towards a parent by a former trustee. The board apologizes to Charline Grant personally and to her family for this failure,” she said.
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After Wallace’s statement during the board meeting, Grant approached her and the two hugged.
“I thought, ‘Finally, it feels like closure.’ I feel satisfied. I feel vindicated. I feel like the board finally is heading in the right direction and I’m grateful for that,” Grant said after the meeting, adding Wallace called her during her first day with the board after being hired on an interim basis. During that conversation, she asked to meet to find a way forward.
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“She wasn’t here when my children were being hurt – when I was being hurt – and for her to apologize personally, it felt good and I appreciate it.”
Grant said there is still a lot of work to be done to address student discrimination but said she and her children have seen an improvement within the board.
With files from David Shum