Father files human rights claim after discovering 'black list' of students in Etobicoke school
The principal of the Etobicoke School for the Arts (ESA) is facing accusations of racial profiling from parents after she compiled a list of all students of colour at the school and passed the list out to teachers in order to track “achievement gaps.”
Peggy Aitchison, the principal of ESA, admitted to creating the list at a meeting organized by students earlier this month. The list was presented to staff at a meeting in November 2017 and students discovered it at the end of the school year.
In a statement, Aitchison apologized for her actions and said the list was meant to help measure achievement at the school.
“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,” she said.
“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.”
George Brown is a parent of an 18-year-old student at ESA and says he has filed a "human rights claim" against both the principal and the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) in connection with what he calls “a black list.”
“It took the photos of the black students in the yearbook and places it beside their names,” he told CTV News Toronto. “It is not being done on the basis of collected data. It is profiled.”
Brown went on to explain that the list also placed students in categories based on mixed race.
“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. But you were put in another list is you were black from Africa or Jamaica.”
At the meeting, Brown said he found out that similar lists had been made five years ago and that the information was not limited to the one school.
“On the list there is one section of the list that says population within ESA and a statistic that comes from the entire TDSB school board, so we feel there is a bigger image to this,” he said.
Brown’s son, Noah, was one of the students whose name was on the list. He said it made him feel like everything he accomplished this year, which includes being accepted into a prestigious art school in New York, didn’t mean anything.
“It made me feel as if I am not necessarily a student, but a black student,” Noah said. “I want my principal to know this has real emotional effects on people of colour and it is damaging to their wellbeing. It tells them they will be only seen by their identity and that they will be racialized for the rest of their life.”
Brown says he does not accept Aitchison’s apology because her explanation wasn’t enough for him. ESA is a specialized school that requires an application and audition process before acceptance.
“Most, if not all of the students, are overachievers. 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.”
Both Brown and his son say they want the TDSB to provide human rights training to all staff and to provide assurances that no more lists like the one found at ESA will ever be created. Brown went further to say that Aitchison should apologize to every student on the list individually.
An invitation was extended to parents, students and staff to attend a meeting Friday evening at ESA to discuss identity, bias, and anti-Black racism. The meeting was to be be facilitated by a TDSB Student Equity Program Advisor.
CTV News Toronto reached out to Aitchison, but did not receive a comment by time of publication.