TORONTO — The mother of a six-year-old in Toronto claims her child has been racially abused by staff at John Fisher Junior Public School. Faridah N., whose name is being withheld to protect the identity of her child, says she brought the allegations to the school, yet educators did not take her concerns seriously. She was told that there was no proof her child’s claims were true. That’s when Faridah decided to send her son to school with a recording device, to gather evidence of the anti-Black racism he has been suffering from.
“In a series of inhumane acts, the 6-year-old Black child, who attends a Toronto District School Board school, was detained in an isolation room for a full day,” reads a press release from the advocacy group Parents of Black Children (PoBC).
We sat down with Faridah and PoBC co-founder Charline Grant to discuss the disturbing allegations against the elementary school.
Grant said that she listened to the recording of the abuse, and could hear how distraught and unsafe the child felt.
“He was isolated and allowed to remain seated, forced to sit at a desk where sketches of words such as ‘poo poo’ and ‘ka-ka’ were written, with no attempts by the teacher to erase these remarks from his desk,” reads the PoBC release.
Faridah says her son’s teacher told her that he was “obnoxious and unpleasant to be around” and every day, he came home from school anxious and overwhelmed.
She explained that it soon became apparent that the abuse he was facing was racially motivated. Faridah explained that she was getting calls from the principal and vice principal saying they wanted to make sure she was “teaching the same values at home” as they taught in school.
Parents of Black Children Steps in
Grant explained that on March 2, she went to the school with the boy and his mother.
“Before getting to where they locked him in the room, I recorded 48 incidents of anti-Black racism against this one boy since September, by the principal, the vice-principal, teachers, and the secretaries of the office,” Grant said.
She explained that it was devastating to hear that a mother was so terrified, so scared, that she thought the best way to support her 6-year-old child was to send him to school with a recording device to capture “proof” of the abuse.
Grant said that the child showed them the room he claims to have been locked in. The room he led her to was so small, Grant couldn’t even fully raise her arms.
PoBC is sounding the alarm, highlighting this case as an example of “instances of anti-Black racism that Black children are subjected to in schools across the province daily.”
Parents of Black Children Sounding the Alarm
PoBC has launched an advocacy framework, calling out various school boards for their response to instances of racial violence in schools. PoBC says that the new framework was created to “set the tone for advocacy so that no parent is left in a situation where school leaders are refusing to meet with them or meet with their advocate.”
The organization says that too often parents of Black youth across Canada are not taken seriously when they reach out about racist abuse in the classroom. They claim that often superintendents and administrators pretend not to receive emails from advocacy groups, won’t allow parents to bring advocates with them to meetings, and refuse to hold staff or students accountable for perpetuating racism.
PoBC is now calling on the province to legislate advocacy as a right for parents within the education system.
“This is why we are calling on the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) to initiate a fulsome and holistic inquiry into anti-Black racism in the education system. It is imperative that the safety and well-being of Black students are prioritized,” PoBC said in a press release.
“Although The OHRC announced that they are launching an action plan, this assumes that school boards know that they have a problem. When many school boards across the province have proven time and again that they are not aware of the crisis they have at hand,” the press release continued.
The Toronto District School Board is Investigating
After learning of these disturbing allegations, The Brandon Gonez Show reached out to the Toronto District School Board to inquire about the case involving the 6-year-old.
“On Thursday, March 2, TDSB staff learned about reports of serious acts of anti-Black racism at John Fisher JPS. No child should experience what has been reported and we apologize for the impact it has had on the student and their family,” TDSB spokesperson Ryan Bird said in a statement.
“We are currently investigating and are committed to taking the required steps on each action reported to us. During the investigation, the Principal, Vice Principal and a teacher have been put on home assignment to allow us time to better understand what occurred. We are working to complete this investigation as soon as possible and will support the student and their family in any way we can,” said Bird.
On this episode of The Brandon Gonez Show, Grant, Faridah, and Brandon discussed the next steps in this case and the action they want the province to take to protect Black students.