Mother says elementary school won't take action after racist incidents against son
A mother of a boy attending Rosemere’s McCaig Elementary is criticizing the school, saying her son has been the target of numerous racist attacks, even after filing a complaint with Quebec’s Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission.
Among the incidents were multiple uses of the n-word as well as physical attacks, according to Adrienne Charles.
“My sons were on the school bus, and the other kids were talking about ‘do you know the difference between a gorilla and black people? My mother doesn’t know, because they are the same,’ and the other kids were laughing,” she said.
In another incident, two brothers held her youngest son down and beat him while calling the n-word.
“Every time these things happened, I met the vice-principal. Every time, the school met the kids to say ‘It’s not good, don’t say that, say sorry.’
In 2017, Charles was assisted in filing a complaint with the commission by the Centre for Research-Action on Race Relations. CRARR Executive Director Fo Niemi said that while almost two years have gone by, an investigation has yet to start and there’s no indication when one might begin.
“In the meantime, the younger child is experiencing continuous harassment and taunting of a racial nature. Last year, he was called ‘poo-face,’ he was called ‘Nutella,’ making fun of him and he was practically the only black child in the school,” said Niemi. “This type of education environment can become very, very toxic for the child.”
In a statement, the Wilfred Laurier School Board said it has taken numerous steps since the 2017 incident, including inviting hip-hop artist Annakin Slayd to discuss racism and inviting the Black Theatre Workshop to visit during Black History Month this coming February.
But Charles said the school’s response has been entirely unsatisfactory, with more incidents occurring, including one last week.
In that incident, her son argued with another child in his math class. While Charles admits her son used some inappropriate language, she said the other child ended up calling her son the n-word.
“He burst into tears in class. N----er had been heard by everybody in class. They told my son, go outside,” she said.
While her son wrote a letter apologizing for hurting the other boy’s feelings but explaining that using the n-word is racist, the school refused to accept the letter.
She says her son was forced to rewrite his letter. He had to remove his reference to the n-word, as well as how that word made him feel.
Niemi said part of the problem lies in the school treating each incident individually, rather than making any systemic changes.
“The message is that racism is not taken seriously,” he said. “The fact the school is not taking very strong preventive measures sends a very negative message to the student population as a whole.”
Charles said she feels the school wants her to stay quiet, but she said she's determined to fight for her son.
"It's a great school. The teachers are very dedicated. The kids have always received very good academic support. I'm not at war with the personnel of the school, I'm not at war with the academic view of the school. I'm at war with the systemic racism that occurs at the school that they don't want to admit."