John fisher school

Investigation underway as three educators pulled from school following multiple allegations of racist incidents

A shocking incident of anti-Black racism has resulted in a number of educators at John Fisher Junior Public School in North Toronto being pulled from the school following an incident in January when a Black student was allegedly locked up in a small room.

“On Thursday, March 2, TDSB staff learned about reports of serious acts of anti-Black racism at John Fisher JPS,” said TDSB spokesperson Ryan Bird. “No child should experience what has been reported and we apologize for the impact it has had on the student and their family.”

According to an article on CTV News, the child’s mother, Faridah, alleges that the most recent incident, when her son was locked in the room for 30 minutes, is one of many instances of racist behaviour at the midtown Toronto school.

During a press conference online this afternoon, Faridah explained what happened and how the issue has been ongoing for months.

“(Since September) my son has always come back crying and stressed and he would say that he needs to be removed from the school,” she explained. What follows was a long ordeal that saw her son being repeatedly separated from his classmates to sit at a special desk, disciplined and other incidents including the use of an unsupervised isolation room.

Now, according to the advocacy group Parents of Black Children, two more parents have come forward alleging similar incidents happened at the same school to their children.

The new incidents have not yet been reported to the TDSB.

“We’ve had another parent come forward last night about her child being sent to the office constantly and on a regular basis and also being locked, detained or imprisoned in this isolation room,” said Charline Grant, co-founder of PBC, speaking at a press conference this afternoon.

“The little girl is Black. She’s a four-year-old little girl. And there’s another five-year-old whose mom came forward as well. Also Black.”

Grant has been looking into the incident, and visited the school and the room in which the first child was placed.

All three children attend John Fisher, though in different classes. The first boy is the only Black child in his French immersion class, according to Grant.

Grant said the first mother that came forward has numerous audio recordings of her interactions with school officials.

She explained that the racism regarding this and similar incidents is systematic.

“Nothing mom brought to us when we first met with her was new. It’s systemic, the over surveillance,” she said. “Black parents are prone to have their phone glued to them at any time they’re at work because the calls that come in are frivolous. One of the calls mom got was that he was picking his nose. He was walking by and wasn’t using his indoor voice. He wasn’t mimicking the secretary because he was in the office bored.”

Grant also explained that other common behaviour includes “adult-ifying” Black children. She also said that this particular incident is an example of Black children being streamed out of French immersion. This, she explained, is the systematic racism at work in the school board system.

“There have been so many incidences; we talk about how our kids are invisible and visible at the same time, with over policing and the constant surveillance. And it’s not just at school, we walk in a store, we’re under surveillance wherever we go; everybody thinks that they could police our behaviour and that, in itself, is historic,” said Grant.

Grant said she visited the school and a child showed her the room.

John fisher school
The room at John Fisher school in which it is alleged that Farida’s child was locked for 30 minutes. (Photo: Parents of Black Children)

“I was floored because it was like a closet. It was more to me like a broom closet,” she said. “And I immediately took a picture because I knew no one would believe me if I left that that day without taking a picture of that.”

Grant said her and a TDSB staff member present were touching each other, the room was so tiny. And when Grant spoke to one of the new parents that came forward, she was told that not only was their daughter locked in the room also, but the lights were also shut off.

“How scary is that? For a child to be locked in a room. I don’t care if it’s five minutes, two minutes or a second, the fact of the matter is it was used to punish and discipline,” said Grant. “This is not the first time parents of Black children are hearing about isolation room in schools. We generally hear about it in Catholic schools, but this is our first time hearing about it in public school.”

Grant said the mental and psychological harm inflicted on the children is unknown at this point, but she said it would take time and therapy.

“There is irreparable damage and harm that has been done to these children. I know I hear these stories all the time, so they hit me a little bit differently. If I’m honest, I am scared and I’m terrified of how these children will move forward.”

A TDSB investigation is underway and Bird said the school board is committed to taking the necessary steps on each action that is reported.

“During the investigation, the principal, vice principal and a teacher have been put on home assignment to allow us time to better understand what occurred,” the statement read. “We are working to complete this investigation as soon as possible and will support the student and their family in any way we can.”

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