Racism in the education system is again under the spotlight; this time in Durham Region. A mother of a 16-year-old boy who has been banned from attending any school in the region has filed a complaint with the Ontario Human Rights tribunal alleging racial discrimination.
The mother is identified in the application as A.S. Her son is identified as K.S. They are seeking $80,000 in damages against the school board for the teen’s “pain, suffering, humiliation, mistreatment and racial discrimination he endured for each suspension.”
In the application, the mother details a litany of suspensions. “Suspended for 20 days,” “suspended for three days,” “suspended for four days,” … all for incidents the mother claims involved white students who did not suffer the same punishments as her black son.
“A grade 12 white student verbally bullied K.S. on numerous occasions, calling him a n****r. They fought physically, K.S. was suspended for 4 days,” the application reads.
“A white male spit and attacked K.S. K.S. was sent home for three days.”
“K.S was expelled from all Durham District School Board schools.”
In the complaint, the mother says her son can no longer attend any school in Durham and told CityNews that a school in Markham wouldn’t accept him. Instead he has been placed in a “Return Ticket program,” a special school for students who have been expelled. A.S writes that her son “is no longer the outgoing, fun loving, happy son I knew” and “he views his new school as a “jail school.”
“He feels belittled to have to buzz to gain access into the building and has to walk through a metal detector. K.S. has lost all motivation and hope.”
The issue of racism in the Durham District School board was the topic of a meeting at Ajax High school this past weekend among parents, school board trustees and other educators. The school board does not keep race-based statistics so there is no scientific data to support the claims that black children are being expelled and suspended at higher rates and being punished more severely than white students.
Akilah Haneef-Jabari is a clinical social worker who compiled a report last year on suspensions gleaned from yearbook photos and available data from the Durham school board. Back in March, she told Citynews that at one Whitby school, Donald A. Wilson Secondary, black males comprised only 5.5 per cent of male enrollment but almost 40 per cent of suspensions.
“The problem rests with the white educators, and the non-black educators. The problem is not the children. They have the capacity to do well, to excel. The challenge is that people need to confront the bias with which they view these children. We are having children in junior kindergarten being expelled . Police being called on children who are six-years-old,” Haneef-Jabari told CityNews at the weekend public meeting.
Durham District School Board has not responded to a request for an interview, but CityNews has obtained a copy of their response to the Human Rights Commission complaint. They say the complaint has “raised a plethora of issues, many of which are factually and legally complex.” They have requested an extension until November 18 to “prepare a fulsome response.”