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Parents defend teacher accused of racism at Toronto school as another parent claims Black student was locked in room

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Dozens of parents of Grade 1 students at a Toronto school where a six-year-old boy was allegedly locked in a closet-sized room have signed a petition in support of their teacher, as at least one other parent says the same thing happened to her child.

The teacher at John Fisher Public School, who the group of parents described as “extremely dedicated, attentive, and caring,” was placed on home assignment, along with the school’s principal and vice-principal, as part of a Toronto District School Board (TDSB) investigation into allegations of anti-Black racism toward the six-year-old.

The boy’s mother alleges that she and her son were subject to dozens of instances of discrimination at the school, and that on Jan. 31 her son was locked in a small room off the school office while staff tended to another student in need of medical treatment.

“That’s when he’s told that he’s being distracting, and [was] led to the room, and locked in the room,” the mother told CTV News Monday. “It’s emotional, it’s unbelievable.”

The advocacy group Parents of Black Children intervened last week, and the school board said in a statement it is “committed to taking the required steps on each action reported to us.”

The mother also alleges that her son, the only Black boy in his class, was made to sit separately from his peers at a desk with unpleasant words scribbled on it.

At a news conference on Tuesday, the advocacy group said two additional families came forward with allegations of anti-Black racism at the school, including one which said their daughter was also locked in a room.

But parents of other children in the class are rushing to defend the character of the teacher. “We do believe that the teacher is a wonderful teacher who has never shown any kind of discriminatory bias toward not only the other Black children in the class, but also the other racialized children in the class, and the teacher himself is a racialized gentleman,” parent Dhruv Jain said Tuesday.

Faridah says her son, 6, was locked in a room at a Toronto school for 30 minutes. (Handout by Parents of Black Children)

The parents acknowledge the seriousness of the allegations and want a fair and timely investigation.

“We recognize that there is no place in the John Fisher Public School community for racism or discrimination of any kind,” reads the petition. “[The teacher] worked hard to create a safe learning environment for all of our children.”

Another parent of a child in the class told CTV News in a statement “We hope that there is a fair and speedy investigation, as all the parents I have spoken to would like to see [the teacher] back in the classroom as soon as possible.”

The TDSB is investigating after a six-year-old boy was allegedly locked in a closet-sized room for 30 minutes.

Parents of Black Children, which is set to release an advocacy framework for families navigating racism in the school system, is demanding to know what happened in the school office Jan. 31.

“I went in the room [where the child was allegedly locked] and I locked the door cause I wanted to have a feel of how tiny it is,” co-founder Charline Grant said Monday. “For me it felt, and looks like, imprisonment, solitary confinement, and it’s cruel and unusual punishment.”

Grant said the school’s principal disputed the child’s version of events, suggesting that the desk was removed from the room before the child was told to sit there.

“We believe the child,” Grant said.

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