School board failed to follow through after antisemitic incident, say parents

School board failed to follow through after antisemitic incident, say parents

content of the article

A West End high school has not kept its promises to Jewish families after one student made a swastika and another gave a Nazi salute, the father of one of the incident’s victims said.

advertising 2

content of the article

The principal of Sir Robert Borden High School last week apologized to the school community for the incident that took place on December 1st. Two Jews Students who stayed after school were called into a room where they found the swastika on the floor. When the students saw the swastika, another student made a Nazi salute.

content of the article

In a letter to the school community, principal Matthew Gagnier called the incident “a blatant act of anti-Semitism which is absolutely unacceptable”.

“Every student deserves the right to feel safe in school, regardless of religion/belief, race, background, ability, gender or sexual orientation.”

But David Baker, the father of one of the Jewish students, said he was assured that families would be notified when the students responsible returned to school.

advertising 3

content of the article

“You can imagine the shock when he was confronted with one of the perpetrators in the hallway. Worse, this student didn’t apologize. He has shown no remorse,” Baker said.

In a statement, the Ottawa-Carleton County School Board called the failure to contact the parents “miscommunication.”

The school conducted an investigation and presented a plan to discipline those responsible and provide support to students and families directly affected, a spokesman said.

The plan also included steps to raise awareness of antisemitism among students and staff and strengthen reporting and support mechanisms, he said.

“Unfortunately, when implementing this plan, there was miscommunication about the date of return to school by the students in charge. As a result, the families of the students directly affected were unaware that the students responsible were returning to school. This created a precarious situation. It was an unfortunate misstep and a sincere apology to those involved.”

advertising 4

content of the article

Seven members of the public are scheduled to speak before the school board on Tuesday evening about anti-Semitism in the school and creating a safe environment for Jewish students.

Trustee Nili Kaplan-Myrth said she will make an application to be discussed by the board in January.

David Baker expects a genuine apology from the students responsible to his son and the other Jewish students who were offended.

Baker said it took a lot of courage for his son to report the incident. His son isn’t concerned about his own safety, but he is concerned about other Jewish students who may not be able to protect themselves.

“Many students do not report these incidents because they are afraid of it.”

Baker said Gagnier and Headteacher Shannon Smith, whose portfolio includes equity and inclusion, assured him on December 8 that the student making the swastika and the student giving the Hitler salute were suspended.

advertising 5

content of the article

He had a follow-up call with him Gagnier on December 12 and learned that a principal’s investigation had concluded. “But what he didn’t mention to me was that the perpetrators would be back at school the next day.”

Andrea Freedman, the President and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Ottawa, attended the two meetings with school officials. The school board’s response influenced their hopes that there would be a way to resolve such incidents.

Freedman and other members of the Jewish community have urged the school board to hire a Jewish equality commissioner and adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of antisemitism, but it hasn’t happened.

“We have been disappointed over and over again. They disappointed their Jewish students. We had hoped this would be a turning point,” Freedman said.

advertising 6

content of the article

“The quicker you address an incident, the less likely it is to fester. It’s happened too many times to say “mistakes happen”. ”

Aaron Smith, a Jewish parent of Sir Robert Borden, said his family decided to move specifically to the school’s catchment area so that his son could attend the school, which has one of the highest percentages of Jewish students on the school board.

His family was shocked that there was no communication with the families of the affected students and the wider Jewish school community when the students who had been disciplined returned to school.

There must be clear consequences for students involved in hateful acts, Smith said.

“They are reminded that school culture is not an open, welcoming environment. I imagine it comes from a place of hate. If left unchecked, this hatred grows and normalizes. Hate that starts with Jews never ends with Jews. It permeates everyone who is different,” he said.

advertising 7

content of the article

“Things have to get better. The leadership has to commit to it,” he said. “I was very hopeful because they sent a letter to all the parents. It felt like we were making some progress. It feels like we’re back to the status quo.”

Sir Robert Borden is home to a number of great-grandchildren of Holocaust survivors, Baker said.

“Think of the horror they must see in the most visible sign of hatred ever, symbolizing not only the six million Jews murdered, but the millions more murdered by the Nazis,” he said.

“The Ottawa-Carleton County School Board has failed the Jewish community. I thought it would be different. It wasn’t.”

In its statement, the school board said it continues to work with families and students to ensure they feel safe and secure.

advertising 8

content of the article

“This week the school will encourage all students to learn about antisemitism and to emphasize the importance of identifying and reporting antisemitic speech and actions,” the board spokesman said.

“In the new year, the school will offer additional learning about our individual and collective responsibility to combat anti-Semitism and other forms of hate and discrimination. This work continues to be done in partnership with faith leaders, community partners and organizations. We continue to reflect on our practices on how best to support those experiencing hate-related incidents.”

    Display 1


    Postmedia strives to maintain a vibrant but civilized forum for discussion and encourages all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments may take up to an hour to be moderated before they appear on the site. We ask that you keep your comments relevant and respectful. We’ve turned on email notifications – you’ll now receive an email when you get a reply to your comment, there’s an update on a comment thread you follow, or when a user you follow comments follows. For more information and details on how to customize your email settings, see our Community Guidelines.

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *