A former student trustee, whose allegations of racism spurred on a third-party code of conduct review, is calling on the ministry of education to remove four people from the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB).
A day after a 67-page report found some merit to Ahona Mehdi’s claims of censorship, the former Westmount Secondary student took to Facebook Live demanding an “institutional overhaul” of the HWDSB.
“We need accountability. We need full transparency. We need justice. And we need change,” Mehdi said in her session.
Last summer, the 18-year-old made allegations via a Twitter post of racism and discrimination during her tenure as a student trustee. The HWDSB preceded to launch a third-party code of conduct review in connection to the claims.
The report issued 12 recommendations to HWDSB, including mandatory governance training for all trustees and student trustees, mandatory EDI training for all trustees and student trustees on an annual basis, and an external review — with an EDI focus — of all board policies and procedures in order to “identify and remove systemic barriers and discriminatory biases and practices.”
On Thursday Mehdi said she only received the report about an hour prior to its release and also alleged that the HWDSB lacked transparency by not consulting her through the process.
“How can the school board declare that providing me a copy of the report was an act of courtesy when I was merely provided one hour to process 67 pages detailing the harm and violence that they inflicted,” said Mehdi.
Mehdi then proceeded to name the four trustees she claims silenced her and made racist comments during the 2019-2020 school year. The third-party review released by the HWDSB did not name the board members it investigated.
HWDSB chair Dawn Danko told Global News that the HWDSB is fully committed to implementing the recommendations and that the names were “adjusted” so that in the case of an unsubstantiated allegation the board is preserving individual privacy rights.
Danko went on to say that a number of the occurrences mentioned in the report happened in public sessions and are readily available.
“We’re not hiding anything,” Danko said. “I think in a lot of cases it would be easy to determine who it would be in the report.”
The chair admitted there are a number of “gaps” in the board’s programs and said they will be adapting the 12 recommendations made by the two Toronto human rights lawyers who constructed the report.
The board has opted not to sanction any of the trustees in question, according to Danko, due to the fact the report did not suggest that action.
“There absolutely needs to be some changes to the way we do somethings as a board and that means we need to have some external viewpoint on our internal policies,” Danko said.
Mehdi called the board’s decision not to impose sanctions “predictable” and suggested the board need to do more than just follow the report’s recommendations.
“We are asking for impeachment and that is very clear, we are not just asking for these twelve recommendations,” Mehdi said.