Two elementary students had legs, arms and mouth duct-taped

MPP Laura Mae Lindo says it was over act of racism

by Lincoln DePradine

Laura Mae Lindo

MPP Laura Mae Lindo is making a “simple request’’ to the people of Ontario. “Join me in organizing to end racism in Ontario public schools,’’ Dr Lindo urged.

Her appeal comes against the backdrop of what she describes as “a troubling trend’’ of “overt acts of racism’’ over the past two weeks in the public school system.

One of the latest incidents involved two elementary students attending Alpine Public School in Kitchener. Reports are that a teacher engaged in disciplinary measures against the students by duct-taping their legs, arms and mouths and leaving them in a darkened room as punishment.

Waterloo Regional Police say they’re investigating the reports and “interviewing all involved’’.

Lindo, NDP MPP for Kitchener Centre and the party’s critic for anti-racism, told reporters at a news conference Wednesday that she plans on introducing a private member’s bill in the Ontario legislature to strengthen the education act.

The act, numbering more than 300 pages, now does not make any mention of racism, she said.

As well, Lindo is calling for immediate action from education minister Stephen Lecce to address racism at Ontario schools. Among other things, she wants an “equity audit’’ conducted.

“I call for the immediate supports that are required to assist families and community members navigate the system as it stands at the moment. As such, that equity audit is something the government could do right now,’’ Lindo said.

“The biggest challenge for us, in this instance, is to have the minister register that any act of racism within the schools is urgent. That, we don’t need to have a huge number of these instances for the minister to recognize the need for urgent action.’’

According to Lindo, “the calls to address racism within the school system have been made repeatedly over the years. There are a number of things the minister could do right now to be able to start to address this.’’

“Race-based data’’ also must be collected, said Lindo, “not only for students but for the staff and administration that surround them in the schools’’.

She also wants the budget of the government of Ontario to include funding “to train educators, to ensure safety, to ensure accountability and to ensure transparency’’ at schools and in the education system.

Lindo was joined at the news conference by school advocates and retired educators Marcia Smellie and Maedith Radlein.

“I am saddened and frustrated,’’ said Smellie, referring to the Alpine Public School incident, which she described as an “assault’’ on the two students.

“This is a parent’s worst nightmare,’’ said Smellie, who also is president of the Congress of Black women in the Waterloo Region. “I need to know that there is support for those students and those families.’’

 The two students were “victims of racism, classism and abuse’’, said Radlein.

 “That speaks to a teacher having no respect for the students in their care. That teacher would not have done that to any child in their family,’’ she said.

“I wonder why would a teacher feel safe indulging in abusing two small children and traumatizing the class? Because this goes beyond the two children; it affects the whole school,’’ Radlein said.

“All I can think of, that the teacher felt safe because there is no respect for who the children are or their families.’’

Lindo, who also is chair of the Ontario NDP Black Caucus, said she remains committed to the fight to change the system and end racism.

“I must fight for change. But I can’t change the system without your help,’’ she said.