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'Unacceptable': Yearbooks at Montreal-area school recalled after racist entry


A West Island high school confiscated over 900 yearbooks after a student snuck racist language into his biography.

The books will be returned after the passage is removed, and the Lester B. Pearson school board says the two students involved will face disciplinary action.

But diversity advocates like Akilah Newton say the major concern is the impact the incident could have on racialized youth at Macdonald High School.

"They learned that someone that they go to school with, a school which is supposed to be a safe place, has these racist thoughts," said Newton, who is the founder of Overture with the Arts (OWTA), a nonprofit that educates youth about diversity.

The entry contained six words, separated by commas. When put together, the first letter of each word spelled a racial slur.

"I realize that teenagers think that things like this are funny, but there's absolutely nothing funny about this," Newton added.

"I hate that we still have to talk about this."

The school board set up a task force on racism and discrimination in 2020 after a video circulated showing two John Rennie High School students in blackface.

Since then, it's worked with community groups to educate students about racism and discrimination.

But for Fo Niemi, director of the Centre for Research Action on Race Relations (CRARR), the yearbook incident illustrates the need to continue these discussions.

"These are the things that can happen, unfortunately," he said. "I think it's important to carry on our conversation with the school population, with the staff."

Community, youth and social justice activist Kemba Mitchell was at the school just a few months ago to speak about the importance of non-biased education and self-advocacy for students of colour.

She says she was disheartened by the news.

"This is a clear reflection of our society's core values when it comes to the treatment of racialized [people], especially members of the African diaspora," she said.

In a statement, the school board called the yearbook entry "extremely inappropriate and unacceptable."

"We cannot let racist attitudes of any kind go unchecked," the message reads.

According to the board, the yearbooks will be returned to students after the passage is removed. Top Stories

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