'It’s racial violence': Advocate calls for accountability, transparency after Toronto teacher dresses up in blackface

An advocate is calling for more accountability and transparency after a Toronto high school teacher was placed on home assignment for wearing blackface to a Halloween celebration on Friday.

“Until there's more accountability and educators and students are held accountable for perpetuating and inflicting racial violence on our Black students and our Black educators, it will not stop,” said Charline Grant, chief advocacy officer of Parents of Black Children.

The vice principal of Parkdale Collegiate Institute, located just south of Queen Street and east of Roncesvalles Avenue, was alerted by a number of students that a white staff member was in blackface, according to a letter sent to parents, guardians and students over the weekend.

That teacher has not been identified, but has been on paid home assignment since Friday as the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) investigates, spokesperson Ryan Bird confirmed Monday.

“Disciplinary action has a range and that's up to and including termination or being fired,” Bird said.

“Wearing blackface demonstrates a complete lack of judgement and is contrary to the pluralistic values we promote within our school system: inclusion and respect,” Education Minister Stephen Lecce said in a statement on Monday afternoon.

Lecce said the events that unfolded last week underscore the necessity of compulsory anti-racism training that is mandated for all school board staff.

Speaking with CP24 on Monday afternoon, Grant said that the union needs to take action to protect other staff in the community.

“I asked the union, ‘what are you doing to protect your Black members who because of this have experienced that trauma,’" Grant said. “How do you hold those accountable? And how do you protect the ones who are experiencing this?”

The community needs to treat this situation as a death, Grant said, because students are mourning.

Grant urged the TDSB to bring in a support system for students who are experiencing “racial violence.”

“It is traumatizing,” she said.

According to Bird, support staff are in place.

“If anyone wants to talk beyond maybe just with their own teacher or the administrator, we do have more professional support available if they need it and for as long as needed,” he said.