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Allegations of racism made against Peel school board chair

Last Updated Jun 23, 2018 at 7:49 am EDT

The chair of the Peel District School Board is facing allegations of racism for comments she made at a board meeting this week after she disagreed with a motion calling for the targeted hiring of black and indigenous staff.

Chair Janet McDougald, who has sat as chair for 20 years and a trustee for 30 years, called a referral motion introduced by trustee Kathy McDonald “regressive” and “self-serving.”

The motion called for a targeted recruitment drive to hire more racialized staff, specifically black and indigenous teachers.

During the meeting, the discussion occurred after it was put forward as a motion referral, meaning members were voting on whether they should defer it to a later date for further discussion and vote.

In the recorded audio from the meeting, McDougald could be heard saying the motion goes against the board’s goals of equality.

“I will never agree that targeted hiring is the right thing to do,” she said. “It will offer preference to one group of people because of their colour of their skin or their gender.”

One parent, Kola Iluyomade, has since filed a complaint with the board, alleging the longtime chair’s comments were racist.

“I was completely flabbergasted and I felt that she needed to be challenged,” Iluyomade said. “She’s the chair of the board. And if she sits in such a powerful position then others will definitely follow.”

Meanwhile, McDougald told CityNews she stands by her comments, adding she would support a motion calling for more diverse hires at Peel schools, but not one that targets specific groups.

“I do not believe in the year 2018 that we need affirmative action or targeted hiring,” McDougald said. “I don’t believe it’s fair. We represent such a multi-cultural diverse community. And if you take a look at that community there are many gaps… between the teachers in the classroom and the students they are teaching.”

McDougald said she had removed herself as chair for the discussion and was speaking as a trustee.

This is not the first time the Peel District School board has faced allegations of racism. In 2016, a study found widespread marginalization of black students.

Just this month, the board suspended a supply teacher and launched an investigation after the woman posted what it called an “inappropriate Instagram post” that mocked a black student’s hair.

The board voted to revisit the issue in the fall. McDougald has already said she will not run again as chair in the upcoming election in October.

However, she hopes to still be sitting as chair when the motion comes up again in September or October.