Toronto District School Board investigates school principal for ‘discriminatory’ list

Jun 26, 2018 | News

The principal of the Etobicoke School of the Arts is under investigation for compiling a list of black students. (Thompson sells)

Sebastian Mahecha

The Toronto District School Board (TDSB) is investigating a school principal in Etobicoke for compiling a list of black students and passing it to the teachers.

Peggy Aitchison, the principal of Etobicoke School of the Arts (ESA), admitted having compelled a list of black students in order to identify gaps in academic supports. The list was presented to the teachers in November 2017 and was discovered by students later on June.

John Malloy, the director of education with the Toronto District School Board (TDSB), said in a June 12 letter to staff, parents and students that “a mistake was made by the principal of Etobicoke School of the Arts that has hurt students and their families.”

“In the TDSB, we are working with every school community to confront racism and all forms of discrimination,” Malloy said. “While it should never have happened, we will continue this significant work of challenging our bias, removing barriers and creating equitable and inclusive schools for all.”

Students, parents and staff held a meeting last week focused on explaining what list was about. A letter was sent to students and parents explaining the list of Black students was created to identify the gaps in opportunity and achievement of specific groups.

Aitchison apologized in the one-page letter to students, parents and staff for the incidents saying that the objective is to support success and never to discriminate students.

“I shared a list of Black students with our teaching staff at a November meeting. Upon reflection and discussion with others, I recognized that this was a limited, flawed, and ultimately inappropriate approach to identifying gaps in supports,” Aitchison said.

“I offered them an apology and want to extend that to all ESA students and parents,” she said. “I also want to commend those students for stepping forward. We want students to speak out when they see injustice and they did just that.”

In the letter Aitchison invites to students and school staff to work together to build a more equitable and inclusive school.

“We will achieve this by working together with all our students and staff and challenging biases,” she said.

In the meantime, the TDSB launched an investigation to determine whether Aitchison’s list was harmful to students.