In wake of racism scandal, York school board says 'sorry'
The York Region District School Board (YRDSB) is apologizing to Charline Grant as part of a settlement of the human rights complaint she launched after being called the "N-word" by a former board trustee.
Prior to the racial slur, Grant had come forward with allegations that her son was discriminated against because of his race at his Woodbridge-area school.
Other allegations from other parents surfaced over the past year, leading to a review by the Ministry of Education that in April described a "culture of fear" and found "systemic discrimination" at the school board.
The mediated settlement between Grant and the YRDSB outlines several steps the board is promising to take in order to address issues of racism and discrimination.
While much of it reinforces the 22 directives issued to the board in the ministerial review, the settlement includes an apology to Grant, her family and the black community for the board's "failure to respond appropriately to the use of a racial slur towards a parent by a former trustee."
The apology from the board describes its response to complaints about racism as "hostile, dismissive, arrogant, and inappropriate."
According to the settlement, the full apology will be read aloud by the acting director of the school board at a public meeting next month.
"We're happy," Grant said in an interview on Thursday. "The apology was important for my children. It's the closure of this chapter."
Along with the apology, Grant is pleased to see the board promising to improve itself.
"I can see they are trending in the right direction," she said.
Grant was represented by Roger Love, a lawyer with the Human Rights Legal Support Centre.
"School is where it all begins — a place to learn that we should be treated equally. There is no room for racism in our crowded classrooms or school board meetings," Love said in a statement announcing the settlement.
In its settlement with Grant, the YRDSB agrees to provide more anti-racism training for staff, more support for black male students and more tracking of incidents of racism.
'We are sorry,' board chair writes
In a statement, YRDSB chair Loralea Carruthers responded:
"We are sorry that the family has gone through this experience and are pleased to have reached a mutually agreeable settlement. We are focused on ensuring no other family goes through this," the statement reads.
"The Board has been united in our commitment to create safe, welcoming and inclusive learning environments for our students and we continue to meet all the deadlines required by the Minister of Education."
In April, former director J. Philip Parappally was dismissed by the board.
Nancy Elgie, the former trustee who called Grant the "N-word", resigned from her role in February.