A human rights complaint has officially been filed against the Vancouver School Board for its handling of anti-black racism, citing concerns that the board lacks adequate policies to address racism within the school system.
The complaint was filed after a video made by a student who expressed his hatred for black people was posted to social media by other students.
The video, which was made in November 2018, shows the face of a white Lord Byng Secondary student, then in Grade 10, as he utters racist slurs and obscenities before expressing his apparent wish to kill black people.
The fallout from the video prompted two black students to transfer to other schools after saying they felt threatened.
Marie Tate, co-founder of the BC Community Alliance (BCCA) — which filed the complaint — says the VSB’s response to the video was inadequate, and the board has not shown a willingness to ensure similar incidents are dealt with more effectively.
“It’s already been a year now since the incident, and we really haven’t seen anything concrete from the Vancouver School Board,” she said Saturday.
“This isn’t the first time racism has happened in a school and been dealt with in a similar fashion,” she added. “We didn’t really have much of a choice.”
At the time the video became public, the Vancouver School Board (VSB) said it was taking steps “to address the seriousness of the matter,” but determined along with Vancouver police that the student did not pose a threat to anyone at the school.
School officials have not shared what measures were taken to address the student’s actions. The BCCA says the boy was initially suspended for three days, which was then changed to five weeks before he transferred to a new school last January.
Tate says the VSB attempted to bring the student back to Lord Byng this September, but a petition brought forward by the BCCA helped convince the board to reconsider.
A meeting was also held that between school board officials, police, parents and the BCCA to address the fallout and the larger issue of addressing racism and threats in schools.
Tate says the only commitment made by the end of that meeting was to set short-term goals for education and training. As of late November, she says no goals have been set or met.
A proposal by trustees to create an anti-racism committee made in December 2018 has also been delayed multiple times, Tate says. When she asked about it at the September meeting, she was told it hadn’t been put in place yet.
“The fact that it took them nearly a year just to answer our questions, it’s not acceptable,” she said.
“They’re dealing with their own problems and they’re not dealing with the students’ problems.”
Tate says instead of having an anti-racism policy with strict guidelines on discipline and victim support, the VSB has “regulations or procedures” that are left to interpretation by school administrations.
“These problems have been going on for years, and they’re going to continue until someone steps in and says ‘hey, you know what, you guys say you have safe and caring schools? … It’s not happening.'”
In a statement, VSB Associate Superintendent Rob Schindel said “District procedures were followed in response to the incident at Lord Byng.”
“Since the incident occurred, the District and the school have worked with the community to provide the student body with anti-racism education, with counselling opportunities, with individualized support plans, and through the creation of a Byng Secondary Diversity and Inclusion Committee, joined by both students and school-based staff,” Schindel said.
“The District also met with members of the black community and with the BC Community Alliance in recent months to hear their concerns and to inform how the District can continue to improve its responses to serious incidents. We have also engaged Safer Schools to conduct a review of District practices and procedures in order to continue to improve our response to such incidents.”
Schindel went on to say the VSB has yet to receive formal notification regarding the human rights complaint, “but will follow and respect the process of the Tribunal upon receiving the complaint.”
At the September meeting, parents of the two black students who left Lord Byng last year said they are also hoping the school board does more to address racism and protect black students.
“We feel like we don’t matter,” Rita Baboth said. “We haven’t been treated the way we should be treated. We feel like we did something wrong.”
Baboth and Suzanne Daley said while the school assured them the student wasn’t targeting their children, they both find that hard to believe.
Even more shocking to Daley is that the students remains enrolled at Lord Byng.
“What if a black boy had made a video to kill all blonde hair blue eyed people like me?” she asked. “Would he be coming back?”
—With files from Nadia Stewart and Sarah MacDonald
This article has been updated to reflect more detailed information about measures were taken to address the student’s actions provided by the BCCA, including the fact that the student is no longer a student at Lord Byng. The story has also been updated with a statement from the Vancouver School Board.