Three staff of a Toronto elementary school are being investigated after a six-year-old Black student was allegedly isolated separated from his peers and confined to a closet-sized room in January.
The Toronto District School Board (TDSB) confirmed recently that staff learned about the incident of “serious acts of anti-Black racism at John Fisher Junior Public School” last week and because of the incident, a principal, vice-principal, and teacher have been removed from the property and put on home assignment.
While talking to CTV Toronto recently, the child’s mother, Faridah said: “It’s emotional, it’s unbelievable.”
Faridah has alleged many instances of racist behaviour toward her and her son at the school prior to the January incident when according to her, her son was locked in a closet-sized room for 30 minutes.
In a recently issued written statement, TDSB said it will investigate the reports as soon as possible and it will take “the required steps on each action reported.
Faridah said at a certain time during the school day on Jan. 31, the boy was sent to the office. As he waited in the office, another pupil arrived in need of medical treatment.
Her son and the student that needed medical attention knew each other and she disclosed her son asked what had happened.
She said: “That’s when he’s told that he’s being distracting, and [was] led to the room, and locked in the room.”
A photo of the room where the boy was locked was taken by Charline Grant, the co-founder of Toronto-based advocacy group Parents of Black Children. The photo shows a rack of audio-visual equipment, a small desk and a microphone stand.
Grant said: “I went in the room and I locked the door ’cause I wanted to have a feel of how tiny it is. I can’t even stretch my arms out, that’s how tiny it is.
“For me, it felt and looks like, imprisonment, solitary confinement, and it’s cruel and unusual punishment.”
While Grant visited the school, she said the principal of the school disputed the boy’s version of the events and instead suggested that he was told to sit on the desk after it had been pulled out of the room, and that the boy was never locked in.
Grant said she and Parents of Black Children are demanding answers, and “just so you know, we believe the child,” Grant said.
Also, Faridah alleged that her son, who is the only Black boy in his Grade 1 class, was made to sit on a desk and was separated from his peers.
She said: “I go to the class, [and] I find out my son sits alone in the corner. And then I asked the teacher why, [and] they said because he’s very distracting to other kids.”
TDSB in a written statement offered an apology for the negative impact the alleged events have had on Faridah and her son.
The statement read: “No child should experience what has been reported and we apologize for the impact it has had on the student and their family. We are currently investigating and are committed to taking the required steps on each action reported to us. We […] will support the student and their family in any way we can.”
While talking about her son’s anxiousness to go to school, Faridah said: “It’s going to take a lot of time for my son to trust the school system again.”
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