Ontario orders review of Peel school board following racism complaints

Ontario orders review of Peel school board following racism complaints

Provincial reviewers have been ordered to look into complaints of racism and governance at the Peel public school board, Education Minister Stephen Lecce announced Thursday.

“Schools must be safe, inclusive, and welcoming places for students, staff, and the entire community. Allegations related to equity in the Peel District School Board have raised concerns, specifically related to anti-Black racism and lack of adherence to governance, leadership, and human resources practices,” Lecce said in a statement.

“These concerns have been raised by families, students, the Peel District School Board director of education, the board of trustees, and members of the broader community,” he said. “Discrimination and prejudice against students is unacceptable. That is why I am confirming our government will be taking action.”

The Peel board has struggled recently with issues around equity and allegations of anti-Black racism. Last month, a trustee apologized after referring to McCrimmon Middle School in Brampton as “McCriminal.”

Last month, the Star revealed that Poleen Grewal, who is in charge of the board’s anti-discrimination work, had launched a human rights complaint against the board, alleging racism and harassment.

The Peel board said in a statement that it requested “assistance and intervention” from the education ministry on Oct. 17.

“We made a commitment to work on our governance and so we reached out to the (ministry) for support,” wrote board chair Stan Cameron and vice-chair Sue Lawton. “We are thankful for the Ministry of Education’s support and continue to be committed to working alongside Peel District School Board staff, students, families and community members to ensure student success and well-being.”

Lecce said he wants the reviewers to start work immediately, “and, upon completion, provide a final report to me with recommendations on how the board could ensure effective board governance that promotes equity, increases accountability and transparency, and safeguards the success and well-being of students — irrespective of heritage, faith, colour of skin, orientation, or socioeconomic status.”

He said “likewise, we expect our school leaders — trustees and senior administration — to provide effective, transparent, and accountable school board governance, to make sure that students of the board are well served and that they are learning in safe, welcoming and inclusive classrooms, and that board staff are working in an environment that respects and upholds principles of equity and human rights.”

A 2017 review ordered by then-education minister Mitzie Hunter found the York Region District School Board was lacking in ethical leadership and denounced the board for a lack of action around issues of racism and Islamophobia.

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Kristin Rushowy

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