Open Letter to the Toronto District School Board Re Events at Glenview Sr. P.S.
(The letter below was sent following an earlier, May 5th email to the Principal of Glenview Sr. Public School, and copied to Trustee Shelley Laskin and Superintendent Diana Panagiotopoulous.)
May 15, 2019
Att’n Diana Panagiotopoulos
Open letter to Toronto District School Board, Trustees, Superintendent
I am writing to you in relation to the series of events of racial slurs, offensive comments, and violence directed against a black female student by a white male student at Glenview Sr. Public School.
As a parent of a student at Glenview, and as a member of the community, I am deeply concerned about the way that these events were handled, and, to a large extent, are still being handled by the school and the school board.
It is clear that the school failed, at the outset, to deal properly with the grave and harmful conduct. The anti-Black racist conduct continued for months, putting a young, female, black student at significant risk of emotional and physical harm, both of which she experienced. This is simply unacceptable.
What is also disconcerting is that the school did not take clear steps to condemn the racist conduct in an unequivocal and transparent manner. Given that the interactions between the students had become widely known among the rest of the student population, and given the persistent and pernicious nature of systemic anti-Black racism in our schools and our society, it is incumbent on the school and the school board to be extremely clear that racist conduct is not tolerated. From everything that I know, this has not happened. The response to the students in the first week after the news broke was simply to bring in counsellors to whom the students could speak, and then to speak to the students about social media use. Neither of these addressed the source of the problem; neither involved indisputable denouncement of racial slurs and violent and offensive language. Neutrality and “even-handedness” are not an option when it comes to racism.
The silence and the delay, in this regard, create the perception that anti-Black racism is tolerated, and that violence against certain victims is condoned.
While I believe that it is the duty of the Board to address the broader issue of racism within our schools, I also believe that the immediate obligation is to the young girl. She must feel safe. She must feel heard. She must feel that teachers, administrators, and staff will protect her. This will be shown not merely through words, but actions; actions that adequately address her and her mother’s requests and concerns.
Next, it must be made abundantly clear to all students and staff that racism is not acceptable. Students must be helped to truly understand racism, its roots, and its harmful and continuing impact. They must believe that the TDSB will not tolerate racial harassment and bullying. These teachings must be ongoing, and not a one-time event. Similarly, it is clear that the staff, the adults at the school, also have to learn about internalized and systemic anti-Black racism and how those impact our response to student behaviour. Both of these are important, but next, steps, after the immediate safety of the young woman has been secured and her needs have been properly addressed.
As a parent who currently has a child at Glenview and will have another one there in September, and as a member of the community, I am gravely concerned and dismayed at the way these events have been handled. I hope that the Board and staff will co-operate with this young woman and her mother to address their immediate concerns, and then work with the larger community to eliminate racism within the school.