Jamaica-born parent is running for trustee against former school board chairman

Charlene Grant

Jamaica-born Charlene Grant, the Black parent who made headlines after she was  called a nigger by a trustee of the  York Region District School Board in November 2016, is  now back in the news.

She has announced that she is running for the position of trustee on the Board against which she had filed human rights complaints.

Grant who is the mother of three children in grades  eleven, eight and two respectively, told the Caribbean Camera that she  decided to  run ” because I care.”

She is running against  Anna DeBartolo who was chairman of the Board when  she launched her complaints.

Among them,  were allegations that her son was called “intimidating” and “angry” by his teachers because of his race, and  an incident  in 2016 when Grant herself was called a nigger by trustee Nancy Elgie who has since resigned.

The Board has apologized to Grant and the Black community for the racial slur.

And apart from the apology,  it has  given assurances of concrete steps  to stamp out racism at the Board. The settlement includes  its commitment to:

  • Establish a Human Rights Office that will collect and distribute equity-related data
  • Roll out mandatory training for all staff on equity, human rights, racism and anti-oppression, including anti-Black racism
  • Provide human rights compliance training for all staff who oversee complaint processes
  • Ensure students experiencing discrimination are aware of support services
  • Hold a two-day workshop to focus on delivering educational programing to racialized students with topics such as Islamophobia, anti-Black racism, anti-Indigenous racism
  • Establish subcommittees to address issues of anti-Black racism and Islamophobia and invite community members to participate

In April 2017, a three-month investigation of the Board found that students, parents and staff had had feelings of “alienation, marginalization and discrimination” and that a culture of fear was rampant within the board.

Mitzie Hunter, then Ontario minister of education, who had  appointed two provincial reviewers to investigate the Board, ordered it to implement 22 directives. These  included establishing a human rights office, reinstating the Every Student Counts survey that will capture “statistics relating to incidents of racism” and ongoing training for all staff on equity and human rights.

Several  of these initiatives are part of the mediated settlement with Grant.

With respect to the racial slur, Grant was seeking $20,000 in a claim for damages to her “dignity and self-respect.”

She told the Caribbean Camera that the ” financial part of the settlement  will not be disclosed.”

Grant said she finally made up her mind to run for the position of trustee after she was turned down when she tried to get on the Board’s parent advisory committee.

“What the Board decided to do was to keep the same people they had on that committee. All the  new applications, including my application, were rejected,” she pointed out.

“I got a letter saying ‘ sorry, you have not been selected.'”

“So I said to myself ‘I’m going to take this to the voters and I will run for trustee.'”

The municipal elections will be held on October 20.