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Parents say Peel school board banned them from schools over racism claims

Last Updated Mar 12, 2020 at 10:41 am EST

The Peel District School Board is facing criticism over what some parents say is an attempt to silence them.

At least two people tell CityNews that they’ve received warnings from the school board telling them they weren’t allowed to step foot on the board’s properties.

Idris Orughu, whose son attends a PTDSB school, is one of the parents who says he got a trespassing letter a few days ago from the board’s Educational Director.

Orugha says the letter advised him that he was not allowed to step foot on any of the PTDSB schools’ properties, including his son’s. In addition, he would also be banned from attending board meetings, including one on Tuesday, where a group of delegates spoke to the trustees about anti-black racism and racism in general.

That meeting saw attendees, many of them black parents, telling members of the school board that they will not be silenced, also saying “black students matter”.

“I wasn’t at the meeting yesterday, I was banned by the board for no absolutely reason,” he said. “I think it’s extreme. There are no facts and no basis for the ban.”

Orughu’s letter states that he is banned until June 2021, adding that he confronted one trustee about the ban, but hasn’t officially asked the board for an explanation. He says that the board has not demonstrated that he was violent or uttered a threat at any point.

“I got a call from the police today, and they clearly stated to me that if the words were said, it does not rise to the level of criminality,” he said. “I did not even say those words that I’m accused of saying.”

Kola Iluyomade, who removed his son from the school board last September, tells CityNews he’s received two warning letters and believes he’s close to receiving a trespassing notice soon.

“They said I haven’t been respectful and I’ve said derogatory things, and that my emails and delegations are derogatory and inappropriate — it’s all lies,” he said. “They want to cut me off from delegating, so they won’t have a voice delegating for black issues at the board anymore.”

Illuyomade says that the board has failed to adequately deal with systemic racism for years now.

CityNews reached out to the Peel District School Board, asking how many trespassing notices have been issued to members of the public. A spokesperson would only say “a trespass notice” was issued, but no further details were provided due to “privacy” considerations.

“The board only issues trespass notices after serious consideration, including in light of the board’s Code of Conduct and commitment to a safe and inclusive environment for the entire school community,” a spokesperson responded, when asked if this was an attempt to silence members of the community.

In recent years, parents, teachers and advocates have highlighted concerns of anti-black racism across the school board.

At a public meeting on Feb. 25, police were called after a trustee stated that they felt “very unsafe after receiving a direct threat to their personal safety.”

“Rumours have been circulating that the police were called to respond to staff and members of the community who were present in the audience,” read a statement from Brad MacDonald, Chair of the Board. “Specifically to respond to a member of the community who was advocating on behalf of Black students and families. That is not the case.”

MacDonald also adds that when safety concerns are expressed, there’s a duty from the board to call police, but issued an apology saying the presence of police can feel threatening.

Just last month, part of a decision by the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario ruled that race was a factor after a six-year-old student was handcuffed and shackled at her school by Peel police officers. The incident, which occurred back in 2016, saw two white constables responding to a call from administrators who said the girl was acting violently. The 54 page decision states that the response was a “clear overreaction.”

Allegations of racism have prompted the Ministry of Education to launch a review of the board. The report is expected to be released to the public this week.

“We expect that this report and directives will inform our next steps on this work,” a PDSB spokesperson said.

One of the demands made at Tuesday’s meeting is for the schoolboard to remove School Resource Officers.