At the Regular Meeting of the Board on Oct. 10, 2019, members of the community brought forward concerns that a Trustee made a comment that referred to McCrimmon Middle School as McCriminal. The matter is before the independent office of the Integrity Commissioner for the Peel District School Board. This office addresses all matters attached to Code of Conduct and Complaint Protocol issues, as issues of ethics and integrity specific to Trustees are investigated by the Integrity Commissioner's office.
There are few details I am able to share at this time. As information relating to the Code of Conduct and Complaint Protocol becomes available, it will be communicated to the McCrimmon and Peel communities.
We acknowledge the truly negative impact that this situation has caused to members of the McCrimmon community, including students, families and staff, and to the broader Black community. I cannot, and do not, speak for the Board of Trustees, but I know they will agree that there is no place in our schools and work sites for anti-Black racism. Although it remains deeply entrenched in institutions, this doesn't mean that we ignore it and walk away. We mustn't treat it as invisible. Through our policies, beliefs and values, the Peel District School Board condemns anti-Black racism.
Following the meeting, we did not issue a public statement as we were waiting for the Integrity Commissioner's office to finish their work. The decision to hold off on a statement was also made in an effort to minimize the trauma to students, staff and families at McCrimmon.
What we have learned, and what we know now, is that not issuing a statement resulted in members of our community, especially members of the Black community, feeling unsupported and abandoned. We should have reflected on the impact through an anti-oppression lens and consulted with the community to determine what they needed—and still need—to address the trauma they are experiencing. For this, we apologize. I commit that we will work to develop a new process for determining the need for public statements that demonstrate care and support, through an anti-oppression lens.
Although a public statement was not made following the Board Meeting, staff at McCrimmon Middle School were made aware of the Trustee's comment at a staff meeting on Oct. 11. Through the Superintendent of Education, administrators were asked to monitor the climate and impact on students and staff. The Peel District School Board was ready to provide support through its social work and climate teams, as needed. These supports are always available to students and staff during difficult times.
While we have legal responsibilities to ensure all students and staff are free from discrimination in all its forms, we also have a moral obligation. We recognize the severity of the hurt and harm that this reference has caused for members of the Black community, both those who live in Peel and others who live outside of Peel. We hear the concerns of anti-Black racism that have been shared with Trustees and staff. We understand that systemic discrimination lives in our system, and we must continue to do all we can to eliminate the marginalization experienced by Black students in Peel schools.
Over the next few weeks, we will seek input from staff, including those who are members of Peel's Association of African Canadian Educators (PAACE), and from parents and community members on the board's We Rise Together Community Advisory Council to determine how we can expand opportunities for Trustees and staff to be genuinely engaged in conversations with the community about systemic discrimination. This work has already begun.
It is clear that we need to review and enhance the work we are doing to address bias and anti-Black racism in Peel schools and work sites. There are gaps that we must address, and we are prepared to partner with the Black community to review our existing We Rise Together action plan and to take any necessary next steps.
We must continue to work to ensure that this doesn't happen again. All students and staff have the right to learn and work in places where they feel safe, welcomed and included.
I'd like to thank members of the Black community for sharing their concerns with us and for holding all of us accountable as we work to support the needs of all of our learners.
Director of Education