A Toronto father is taking legal action after learning of a so-called “black list” of students at his son’s school reportedly meant to track “achievement gaps” among students of color.
George Brown, whose 18-year-old son attends Etobicoke School for the Arts, has filed a human rights claim against both the principal and the Toronto District School Board over the offensive list, which he argues is an act of racial profiling, CTV News Toronto reported. Parents first learned of the list at a student-organized meeting earlier this month.
“It took the photos of the Black students in the yearbook and places it beside their names,” Brown told news site. “It’s not being done on the basis of collected data. It is profiled.”
Moreover, the father said the list categorized students by whether they were mixed race or not.
” … You were in a different kind of category, as if you had some kind of white in your background, maybe you aren’t, I guess stupid,” he said. “But you were put in another list is you were black from Africa or Jamaica.”
Peggy Aitchison, the principal of ESA, found herself in the middle of the controversy after she confessed to making the list and passing it out to teachers as a means of measuring student achievement. According to her, the list was presented at a staff meeting in November 2017 and students found out about as the school year came to a close.
“In the context and with an objective of supporting success for all students, particularly those for whom we know as a group there are gaps, I shared a list of black students with our teaching staff at a November meeting,” Aitchison said in a statement.
“Upon reflection and discussion with others, I recognized that this was a limited, flawed, and ultimately inappropriate approach to identifying gaps in supports and so, that very same day, I retracted that compilation that was based solely on perception,” she added.
According to CP24 News, the embattled principal has asked to be transferred to a different school, a request the TDSB approved earlier this week. The move comes amid mounting pressure from students and parents who called for her resignation.
Aitchison’s apology didn’t offer much consolation to Brown and his son, Noah, who was featured on the list. The college-bound teen, who was recently accepted into a prestigious art school in New York, said the list made him feel as though everything he accomplished this year didn’t matter much.
“It made me feel as if I am not necessarily a student, but a black student,” Noah told CTV News Toronto. “I want my principal to know this has real emotional effects on people of colour and it is damaging to their well-being. It tells them they will be only seen by their identity and that they will be racialized for the rest of their life.”
At the meeting, Brown said he learned that similar lists had been made five years ago and believes it could be part of a larger plan by the TDSB school board. He and his son are now demanding the TDSB offer human rights training to all staff members as well as assure students and parents that no more lists like the one crafted by Aitchison will be created.
“Most, if not all of the students, are overachievers,” Borwn said. “So the idea that the list was created in order to determine whether Black students are underachieving or not receiving the benefits of what ESA has to offer doesn’t make sense.”
The father-son duo have also called on Aitcheson to personally apologize to each student on the list.