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Families call on Peel District School Board to address alleged anti-Palestinian racism, Islamophobia


A group of citizens and parents is voicing concerns, saying the Peel District School Board is neglecting to address an alleged rise of anti-Palestinian racism and Islamophobia in its schools.

In one case they said they believe an administrator removed a celebrated piece of artwork by a child locked in a display which included the words "Free Palestine."

After the child whose artwork was removed got upset, the parents were too scared to deal with the fallout, the group said.

“What has that taught that girl about freedom of expression? That there is none actually, that she [can’t] be free in expressing herself because it will be limited in some way,” said Sabrina Ghaffar-Siddiqui, a sociology professor and PDSB parent who spoke at a press conference outside the board’s offices Wednesday.

Nora Ward is with the Coalition for Palestinian and Muslim Families and Students in Peel Region. She said there have also been cases in which PDSB educators have faced consequences for showing artwork that included the words Palestine or genocide.

“This is very disturbing because a lot of other staff found out about this and they are very terrified to support anything in terms of Palestine,” she said.

The group said there are students who are being treated unfairly and don’t feel safe. As well, they said, a double standard is being applied to topics around justice, historical events, and politics.

“Peel District School Board takes immediate action when we receive reports of discrimination and/or inappropriate actions committed by students or staff,” the board said in a statement. “We will continue to focus on serving students and staff with compassion and care using trauma informed approaches while upholding their dignity and human rights.”

Shortly after the Isreal-Hamas conflict began, Stephen Lecce, the Minister of Education, issued a memo to boards, which told educators in the province to be proactive, compassionate, and determined in stopping all forms of hate in schools and underscored that there is no room for influence of personal opinions or world views in Ontario classrooms.

The group said the artwork wasn’t hateful in any way and it’s time the board take proactive steps to ensure the rights and well-being of Palestinian and Muslim students.

Another concern of the group is over the word Nakba and Nakba Remembrance Day. Nakba, according to the United Nations, means “catastrophe” in Arabic and “refers to the mass displacement and dispossession of Palestinians during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war”.

The group said the board is suppressing the word from being used at some schools and has removed from a "Days of Significance" calendar.

The PDSB said that Nakba Remembrance Day was identified as a Community Observance day, which recognizes the diversity of PDSB communities with no specific actions for schools.

“At the April 17, 2024 Board Meeting, the Board of Trustees approved a motion to review the Days of Significance calendar. In response to this motion, the Director has launched an internal review of the Days of Significance Calendar and procedure. Once the review is complete a communication plan will be developed and rolled out,” the board said in a statement.

“The Days of Significance Calendar was removed from the site as part of the review process,” the statement continued. Top Stories

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