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Groups call on TDSB to help all kids feel seen and safe amid tensions over Israel-Hamas war


Parents of Palestinian and Jewish kids are voicing their concern over whether the Toronto District school Board (TDSB) is doing enough to ensure that kids feel safe at school amid soaring tensions over the Israel-Hamas war.

In a news conference outside of TDSB headquarters Wednesday morning, one group of parents said more needs to be done to make sure that Palestinian kids feel seen and unafraid at school.

“In two communications from the director of education and chair of the TDSB, the TDSB unequivocally and rightfully condemned the October 7 killing of Israeli civilians, and clearly named the perpetrators of these attacks,” Nadine Nasir, the Palestinian mom of a six-year-old TDSB student said. “What they did not do was unequivocally condemn the killing of Palestinian civilians and name the perpetrators of those attacks.”

She said the “erasure of the loss of Palestinian lives” has left her feeling like some lives are valued more than others.

Ben Losman, another member of the “Palestinian and Jewish Families” group which held the news conference, said that he wants to see the TDSB provide resources pertaining to anti-Palestinian racism.

“The TDSB statements point to community members and anti-hate resources and while some of these address anti-Semitism and islamophobia none address anti-Palestinian racism,” he said.

In a statement, the TDSB said that it wants to make sure that all children are being heard and feel safe.

“We have heard deep concern from a number of communities, including Israeli, Jewish, Palestinian, and Muslim, about the safety of their children and that is why we are committed to the TDSB’s Anti-Hate-Anti-Racism-Strategy and Human Rights Policy,” the board said. “We want to ensure that students and staff feel heard through respectful interactions, while being sure to stop any form of hate that is impacting students, such as antisemitism or Islamophobia in our classrooms.”

Jewish parents have also expressed concern that some of their kids do not feel safe at school because of the conflict.

The TDSB confirmed Wednesday that graffiti depicting a Star of David dripping with blood and the words “Free Palestine” were found painted on the doors of Danforth Collegiate after school hours on Monday.

Toronto Police said Tuesday that Jewish homes were also targeted with similar messages.

Speaking with CP24, Noah Shack of UJA Federation of Greater Toronto, said the conflict should not be “litigated” within the city’s public schools.

“I think it's also really important to note that the Israel-Palestinian conflict, the Israel-Hamas war shouldn't be litigated in the classroom,” Shack said. “There is nothing that the TDSB or any other school board can do to solve the conflict half a world away.

“What they should be focusing on is the rising incidence of hate that we're hearing, rising incidence of antisemitism that we're hearing among staff, among students. That really needs to be addressed immediately.”

The school board said it realizes that many people have been impacted by the war and they are working to safeguard the mental health of those in the school community.

“At the TDSB, we are focusing on the mental health and well-being of students and staff - many of whom, together with their families, are experiencing pain, grief, anger and fear,” the board said. “We have provided a number resources to the system and TDSB Professional Support Services staff remain available to speak with students who want to talk. At this time, our primary focus remains on creating inclusive environments where students feel safe and respected. We want them to feel positive about being in school and continue to focus on their learning.”

The issue around resource materials for antisemitism, Islamophobia, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has come up before.

The issue came to a head in 2021 when a TDSB trustee spoke out against a package of materials on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict distributed by a teacher which were found by an investigator to include some materials that were antisemitic and which praised suicide attacks. However, the investigator also found that the trustee should have praised some of the other resource material that was not problematic and recommended sanctioning her, a recommendation ultimately rejected by the board, with some board members calling the report "lacking.”

The incident resulted in accusations from each side that the other was trying to silence them.

The conflict in the region has raised tensions in communities around the world, with never-ending protests and counter protests. Moderate voices have pleaded with people to recognize each other’s humanity and not do more to inflame tensions. Top Stories

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