Student agendas recalled by GTA school boards due to cartoon cover depicting ‘stereotypes’

The front cover of the now-recalled student planners given to students from two GTA-area school boards.
The front cover of the now-recalled student planners given to students from two GTA-area school boards. Global News

The York Region District School Board (YRDSB) and Toronto District School Board (TDSB) say student planners are being recalled and replaced after they learned the cover image on the agendas highlighted “inappropriate cartoon depictions of students that perpetuate stereotypes and stigmatize children from racialized backgrounds.”

According to a statement on the YRDSB’s website, a small number of schools received the agendas.

“While we appreciate the intent of the cover was positive, we are grateful for the students who had the courage to come forward to resolve this matter,” the statement reads.

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In a memo obtained by Global News and dated Sept. 17, Holly Richards, principal of Elkhorn Public School in North York, said the cover image was provided by Laurentien/Aupel.

“Although the intent may not have been to perpetuate stereotypes, the impact is not consistent with everything that we stand for at the Toronto District School Board,” read the memo signed by Richards.

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“I would like to apologize for any harm this may have created.”

A TDSB spokesperson said only two schools from its board received the agendas, adding that Laurentien/Aupel provides a number of different covers from which schools can choose.

A YRDSB spokesperson said approximately 13 schools received the agendas.

According to the YRDSB statement and the TDSB memo, new agendas have been ordered, and the covers will be replaced at no cost to parents or guardians.

Parents are being instructed by the TDSB to tell their children to give the student planners to staff, who will remove the covers. The old planners can be used until the new agendas come in, the school board said.

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Discussions about cost are still ongoing with the vendor, the YRDSB said.

A TDSB spokesperson said the board will be paying about $1,200 to re-print the agendas.

The YRDSB and TDSB both said that moving forward, all agenda covers will be vetted and approved to ensure this does not happen again.

“As we evolve and deepen our understanding of equity, we are developing greater awareness and making decisions based on the realities and needs of the richly diverse communities we serve in York Region,” the statement reads.

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The TDSB said they are not aware of any complaints from parents.

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Global News reached out to Laurentien/Aupel for comment and was told by the publishing company that it had proposed this cover as an option for many years with “no negative feedback.”

The company said the schools themselves selected this cover from among 50 suggested options.

“As a printer, we follow our customers’ creative ideas and decisions. Many of our customers design their own covers, and we simply print files submitted to us. In this context, we don’t see why [Laurentien/Aupel] should cover the cost of changing the covers.”

The publisher told Global News its employees “carefully review customers’ projects for sensitive content and images” and said that this particular cover has not been “flagged as inappropriate” for the past 14 years.

The company said it is currently in discussion with the school boards to find a solution for changing the covers.

WATCH (June 4, 2019): Toronto District School Board adopts sweeping wardrobe change for 2019-20

Toronto District School Board adopts sweeping wardrobe change for 2019-2020
Toronto District School Board adopts sweeping wardrobe change for 2019-2020

With files from Oriena Vuong 

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