In a letter sent to parents, Julie Ardell — the principal for Parkdale Collegiate Institute — said a student had alerted the vice principal that a white staff member was in blackface on Friday, the last school day before Halloween, when staff and students typically dress up for Halloween.
“Caricatures of peoples’ race or culture are not appropriate and are offensive and hurtful,” Ardell wrote.
“Regardless of whether this was intended or not, it was racist and dehumanizing.”
The principal said the teacher was asked to immediately wash their face.
A report was filed with the board for TDSB’s Reporting and Responding to Racism and Hate Incidents Involving or Impacting Students in Schools Procedure.
Ardell said due to the investigation, the teacher was put on home assignment pending the outcome.
“On behalf of Parkdale CI, I acknowledge and regret the harm this incident has caused to students, staff and families and our shared school climate,” Ardell said. “While we have begun the work of addressing anti-Black racism and all forms of discrimination, it is clear that we must do more.”
A petition was launched online over the incident asking the TDSB to do more to address anti-Black racism in schools.
“At 9:30am on October 29, 2021, a child in your high school, Parkdale Collegiate Institute took 11 pictures of his Grade 9 teacher in blackface,” a concerned parent, Cathy Gatlin, wrote.
“He was understandably upset. Other children were understandably upset,” Gatlin continued. “When they asked the teacher what he was dressed up as, the teacher stated that he didn’t have an idea for his Halloween costume, so he decided to paint his face black.”
Global News spoke to Gatlin who said that although the right actions were immediately taken by the principal after the incident was flagged, more needs to be done and that the incident is reflective of systematic issues in schools.
“My concern is, how could this have happened? How could we have let it come to this where a teacher has been hired that can even think that this is OK?” Gatlin said. “What went wrong?”
“Something went wrong in our system,” she said.
Gatlin said she would like to see the TDSB have a more transparent process of how teachers are interviewed and hired, performance appraisals partially based on how the teacher is dealing with systemic issues like racism, and a better way for students to tell people about racism incidents.