York Region District School Board review reveals ‘culture of fear’ and ‘systemic discrimination’

York District School Board (YRDSB) review offers a long list of recommendations to the board to address what is described as a “culture of fear” among board members and senior managers, as well as “systemic discrimination.” .

Ontario Education Minister Mitzie Hunter issued 22 directives to the school board following a review on Tuesday. At least one of them must be adopted within 24 hours.

She described the findings of the review as “deeply disturbing”.

Hunter kicked off the review after two high-profile incidents of racism and Islamophobia within the YRDSB: one in which a school counselor used a racial slurs by referring to a black parent, and another in which a principal told him. published offensive material about Islam and refugees. The Facebook page.

Both of these incidents took place against a backdrop of growing complaints of systemic racism across the board.

The York Region District School Board has been in the throes of controversy over the past year, with two specific incidents drawing attention to what community members describe as a systemic problem. (York Region District School Board)

Report recommends change in training and travel policies

The report, written by Patrick Case, law professor and former school counselor, and Suzanne Herbert, former Deputy Minister of Ontario, interviewed staff, board members, community members, students and the parents.

Among the report’s recommendations are calls for mandatory training for all board staff on “equity, human rights and anti-oppression” and for the creation of a human rights office. human rights of the YRDSB responsible for the respect of human rights.

Both of these recommendations were issued as guidelines by Hunter, with the expectation that the school board would take action on them over the next two months.

The report also includes recommendations for the YRDSB’s policy on spending related to international travel, calling for a moratorium on travel for staff and board members until a new policy is passed that offers more. transparency and clearer approval processes.

As a result, Hunter also ordered the YRDSB to cease travel expenses, which the school board agreed to do.

“A worrying lack of responsibility” on issues of racism

The report describes a “worrying lack of accountability and dissemination of responsibility” among school trustees regarding allegations of racism on the board. He also denounces the inaction and the lack of response from the board of directors to the two incidents mentioned above.

Of offensive Facebook posts posted by Markham school principal Ghada Sadaka, the report states that “the board has failed to exercise strong and ethical leadership,” wondering why it has failed. not made a firm statement at the time of the controversy.

The report also asks why no code of conduct complaint was filed against trustee Nancy Elgie after she admitted to using a racial slur in reference to a parent.

Case and Hebert later describe the code of conduct complaints as being used primarily as a “bullying tactic” among board members. They detailed an incident in which “the code of conduct policy was used to force a racialized administrator to apologize for using the term ‘white privilege.’ “

The report also details accounts of homophobic behavior by some staff and board members, listing examples such as “homophobic jokes and comments … senior homosexual official.”

“Culture of fear” and communication breakdown

Staff and board members are described as living in a “culture of fear”, with a major communication breakdown between board members, staff and Director of Education J. Philip Parappally.

Parappally has been the subject of much criticism, with pages of the report describing concerns about his recruiting and behavior. Staff, union representatives and managers expressed “little confidence in the manager’s ability to motivate and lead for the future”.

Education director J. Philip Parappally was criticized in Tuesday’s report for creating a culture of fear and encouraging staff members to spy on each other. (York Region District School Board)

Hebert and Case describe Parapally as cultivating a “frightening and threatening environment” in which some staff are asked to spy on others, and promotions and pay appear to be based on favoritism.

They also express their concern that Parapally’s contract has been extended for an “unprecedented” ten-year term, despite the fact that it has never been the subject of a real performance review.

School board: there are “major errors of fact”, but the report will not be ignored

The YRDSB issued a statement Tuesday morning thanking the ministry for the report, and also said it would take action immediately. The board listed steps already underway, including stopping travel, creating a fairness plan and fairness audit, and hiring an integrity commissioner. .

“Message received, loud and clear,” said YRDSB President Loralea Carruthers.

However, the statement also claimed that the report is not entirely factual.

YRDSB president Loralea Carruthers said the review would not be ignored, although the board argued it contained “material errors of fact.” (SRC)

“We saw significant errors of fact in the report which we raised directly with the minister,” Carruthers said. “In addition, we seek clarification on a number of points.”

Hunter said she supports the work done by Case and Hebert.

Parappally also released his own statement, acknowledging that “there were areas for improvement on the board” and promising to review both the report and the guidance issued by Hunter.

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