The father of a 14-year-old girl — who allegedly received hundreds of racist messages on her Instagram account — filmed his visit to his daughter’s school on Facebook to get the word out about the incident.
“I made sure if I went to the school, I’m going to be heard right away and this situation is going to get rectified,” said Shawn Howe.
Howe’s daughter Mataya Smith claims last year, when she was in Grade 8, she began receiving racist Instagram messages from two girls.
As she entered Grade 9 at an Oakville Catholic secondary school this year, she says the comments starting coming at her like daggers, in the high school’s halls and again on her Instagram account.
“Comments like, ‘Go cream your scaly, black skin.’ and ‘You’re my slave. Come massage my feet or I’ll hang you and throw fire at you,’” the teen said.
Mataya’s mother Rianne Smith says the school failed her daughter.
Smith says when she first heard about the comments on Friday, Nov. 4, she called and spoke with the school principal.
“The first day, I called and advised them (about what was going on), and they didn’t speak to my daughter,” she said.
“He advised me he would speak to my daughter and get it under control. 4:30 p.m. came around, I still hadn’t heard back from him. Nobody spoke to her about anything.”
Smith claims on the following Monday, she waited hours in the school’s office and was eventually told no one was available to speak with her.
Mataya said when she went to school the next day, students continued harassing and threatening her in the halls. She went to the vice principal’s office as a last resort, and says the VP partially put the blame on her for reacting to the alleged posts on Instagram.
The teen says the vice principal the ordered her to delete all of the messages from her Instagram account.
“She said that I can’t leave her office until I deleted everything,” Mataya said.
Rianne Smith says the family “would have been OK taking down the social media posts had the school spoken to us first and advised us that would have been in the best interest to kind of calm the situation down.
“However, we would have liked to have been able to make copies,” she said.
A few copies did survive. One post of a student asking Mataya why she hadn’t “jumped off a highway yet” and another proclaiming that “Trump would take care of” people like her.
The day after Mataya was forced to erase the messages, her father and aunt arrived at the school, calling for justice on Facebook Live.
Police were finally called, but on Howe. No charges were laid, but he admits he lost his cool.
“I actually went to the school with the intent to fight somebody,” he said. “I know that’s not legally right or possible so I had to do what I had to do to get the word out.”
The Halton Catholic District School Board refused to address the incident directly with CityNews because of concerns over student privacy.
But superintendent of education Camillo Cipriano did address the issue of Mataya being forced to erase her messages.
“If any child in any of our schools enters an administrator’s office and speaks of a bullying incident, it becomes the number one priority for that principal in that building,” he said.
“To ask if part of the process is to erase the video or online image? I can’t really speak to that because every situation is unique. Every situation calls for a principal or a vice principal to do what’s best for that child.”
Howe and Smith confirmed the school has spoken to the students who were allegedly sending the hateful messages, but the family has decided to pull Mataya from the school.
Mataya said she’s looking forward to a fresh start and had this message for the people who bullied her: “Stop what [you’re] doing because maybe somebody is not as strong as I am and they will hurt themselves.”