Parents at a Vancouver high school concerned about a racist video met with school board representatives Monday, bringing a petition backed by hundreds of people.
The meeting was requested by the BC Community Alliance, a parent group formed after a white teen at Lord Byng Secondary School made a racist video targeting black people and posted it to Facebook in November 2018.
Marie Tate, a member of of the alliance, said they called the meeting because they were concerned the school was not keeping them informed since the video circulated 10 months ago.
Their petition — signed by 815 people at press time — targeted a “lack of action” from the school board and Vancouver Police Department, and called for the incident to be handled “with the level of concern that is warranted.”
Tate said representatives from the police department, city, provincial government and human rights commission also attended, and heard impact statements from parents.
Two of those parents were Suzanne Daley and Rita Baboth, whose daughters have both left Lord Byng since the racist video appeared. Baboth’s daughter is the one who reported the video to administrators.
The first parent who came forward said she felt unsupported by the school board.
“She has felt largely ignored and even seen as a problem because she keeps asking for answers and support,” Tate said.
“Her child brought this to the attention of the school and still had other acts of racism enacted toward her … She feels the school did not act properly at all and it put her and her family in a lot of inconvenience, and in a very stressful situation.”
A student also provided an impact statement at the meeting, and Tate said “there were some tears, and not even just from the parents.”
“It was pretty upsetting.”
A representative of the school board said Superintendent Suzanne Hoffman was at the meeting “to listen and learn.”
“When situations arise that contravene the district code of conduct, a balance of appropriate disciplinary and restorative actions are taken. Racism is not tolerated,” the representative said.
But Tate said parents were disappointed with the outcome of the meeting.
“We still did not get answers,” she said.
“We have asked them to put these families’ minds at ease and draw the line: What is your zero tolerance policy? That is our biggest question.”
Tate said school board officials sent a letter saying the student who made the video would be back at Lord Byng this fall.
Then, after the petition, “apparently the school board told the offending student that it would be best not to return,” she added.
“We were unable to get confirmation from the VSB, but he hasn’t returned as of yet.”
No details about the student and his enrolment were shared by board staff due to privacy obligations.
That the board ever considered allowing the student who made the video to return was enough for parents to question their interpretation and implementation of zero tolerance.
“They should not be allowed back to that school. Period. They should be expelled,” Tate said.
The alliance is now advocating for education and workshops for school staff, including training around conscious and unconscious bias, as well as updates on action being taken by the board, such as victim-centred restorative justice, in the next 30, 60 and 90 days.
“When they are taking months and months to get back to people or take action … these families are dealing with anxiety and other issues,” Tate said.
In an earlier email to Black Press Media, the board said it had launched an investigation after the video was discovered, assessed the risks, and took “appropriate disciplinary and restorative action.”
Students who were affected by the video were offered counselling, the board added, and a committee of students and staff was created to foster diversity and inclusion.
B.C.’s education ministry earlier told Black Press Media racism is unacceptable and all school districts have codes of conduct in place that match B.C.’s Human Rights Code.