School division sorry after employee dressed up as Spice Girl with blackface

Four teachers from the Strathcona Christian Academy dressed up as Howie Mandel, Heidi Klum, Mel B and Simon Cowell to judge a talent competition, according to a tweet from the school's Twitter account. Courtesy: Twitter/SCA Elementary

An Alberta school division has apologized after a staff member at a Christian school wore blackface while dressed up as a member of the British band Spice Girls.

Elk Island Public Schools said in a statement Monday that it is taking immediate action with the employee to address her conduct.

“We do not condone behaviour that would be offensive or hurtful to any student, employee or member of our school community,” said the division.

It added that an apology was also going home to parents.

“In the days ahead, EIPS will seek out resources in order to further educate employees, both at this school and throughout the division, about the need to be respectful of all races and cultures.

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Blackface is a kind of theatrical makeup usually worn by non-black actors. It’s been criticized for perpetuating racial stereotypes.

A screen capture of a photo on Twitter shows a woman wearing dark face makeup while dressed up as Mel B, otherwise known as “Scary Spice” with the 1990s all-girl band.

In this Sept. 10, 2016 file photo, Mel B arrives at night one of the Creative Arts Emmy Awards in Los Angeles.
In this Sept. 10, 2016 file photo, Mel B arrives at night one of the Creative Arts Emmy Awards in Los Angeles. Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP, File

She is standing with other adults posing as celebrity judges in a talent event at Strathcona Christian Academy in Sherwood Park, just east of Edmonton.

“Look who’s here for SCA’s Got Talent! Meet the judges: Simon Cowell, Mel B, Heidi Klum and Howie Mandel!! All the best to our competitors!” said a caption of the photo from SCA Elementary.

The original tweet no longer appeared when searched for Monday.

Laura McNabb, a spokeswoman for the school division, said officials would not be commenting further.

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Marisa Peters, an Edmonton blogger who uses the Twitter handle Stream and Stone, said she is a former student of Strathcona Christian Academy’s secondary school.

“In musical theater we were asked to fake tan and wore dark makeup to dress as Puerto Ricans for ‘West Side Story,'” said her tweet. “Blackface has a history at this school.”

Bashir Mohamed, an activist with Black Lives Matter in Edmonton, tweeted the screen grab of the original photo as well as other photos reflecting the history of blackface and racist stereotypes in Alberta.

“I’m disappointed and angry at this educator,” Mohamed tweeted.

“This legacy helps us understand the impact of this teacher’s use of Blackface. It’s not an isolated incident but something common within our province’s history.

“Now you understand the impact – what do you think life is like for a Black student at Strathcona Christian Elementary?”

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