Hamilton public school board to investigate serious allegations of racism

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The Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB) says it will be investigating after a former student trustee called out various instances of racism and oppression at the school board.

Ahona Mehdi, who ended her term as the student trustee on Saturday, spoke in a Twitter thread about what she said was “the most patronizing experience of her life.”

Today marks the end of my term as a 2019-2020 HWDSB Student Trustee.  No, I’m not grateful to have been in this role,” Mehdi said.

The HWDSB is a disgustingly racist and oppressive institution that serves the interest, success and well-being of white, straight, able-bodied, cis-gender staff and students,” she continued. “Enduring racial gaslighting and micro-aggressions throughout my term allowed me to truly understand the HWDSB’s oppressive nature.”

Mehdi gave several examples of racist incidents she had allegedly witnessed/experienced from fellow student trustees, including:

  • A white trustee using the n-word in reference to black athlete Serena Williams
  • A white trustee claiming that there is “too much Black leadership” in the school board
  • A white trustee claiming that Arabs/Muslims are evil and that “we shouldn’t waste our time/breath discussing such hopeless people”

Mehdi also called out the HWDSB for not being proactive enough in helping marginalized people within the school board, arguing that “no marginalized person should be expected to seek help directly from their oppressor.”

It’s time to expose the HWDSB and the rest of Western education for what it is,” Mehdi concluded. “More to come.”

The same day, a response was issued by Alex Johnstone, Chair of the Board, and Manny Figueiredo, Director of Education and Secretary of the Board, who said they found the concerns deeply disturbing.

We will immediately begin a third-party Code of Conduct investigation to understand and address all of the concerns raised,” said Johnstone and Figueiredo in a statement. “We believe that it is vital to advance the work of equity and anti-racism.”

They also noted that anti-racism and anti-oppression training would continue to roll out for elected officials and staff at HWDSB in the upcoming school year, among other actions.

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