Ontario’s Minister of Education has ordered a review of how the Waterloo Region Catholic District School Board handled a situation where police were called to John Sweeney Catholic Elementary School in Kitchener to deal with the behavior of a four-year-old student.
Police confirmed officers attended the school on November 29 after receiving a report of a student in crisis who allegedly acted violently.
The child’s family is Nigerian. The incident prompted black family advocates to denounce the police call to a kindergarten classroom.
Police said officers worked to defuse the student’s behavior, contacted a family member and brought the child home.
“Under no circumstances should the police be called to remove a four-year-old student from a school in this province,” Minister Stephen Lecce said in a statement to CBC Kitchener-Waterloo on Friday afternoon.
“Black and racialized parents continue to face these unacceptable situations that only demoralize and harm their children and families.”
Lecce said a third-party representative from the Department of Education would make an “objective analysis of the circumstances.” The report will recommend actions to the school board “to ensure this does not happen again.”
“We have to do better,” Lecce said.
The report should be completed within the next month and will be given to the family and the school board.
School board ‘failed’ child, lawyer says
Fidelia Ukueje, president of Waterloo Region Nigerians, is acting as a spokesperson for the four-year-old’s family because she did not want to speak to the media.
Ukueje disputes the police account and said the child jumped on a desk and ran away from a teacher, but was not violent.
“The school board let down a four-year-old child by criminalizing a child. There was no justification for what the school board did to that child.”
CBC Kitchener-Waterloo contacted the Waterloo Catholic District School Board for feedback on the provincial exam. The board did not immediately respond to the request.
Earlier this week, when contacted for comment, the school board did not confirm the incident. In response to questions, the council said it met with the family on Wednesday but could not comment on the situation due to privacy legislation.
The child is “in exclusion” and has not been allowed to attend in-person classes since Jan. 18, the school board confirmed. The family is trying to transfer the child to another school.
Minister must see that this is not just one school: MPP
Kitchener Center MP Laura Mae Lindo, who is also the NDP’s anti-racism critic, said she received more than 350 emails about anti-black racism in schools while working on Bill 67, Racial Equity in the Education System Act, which would make a number of changes to the Education Act to include anti-racist language. It goes to second reading at Queen’s Park next week.
She said many of the emails raised concerns about tougher discipline for black students in situations similar to the one uncovered this week.
“What interests me is that Minister Lecce has been Minister of Education through more than this particular incident,” Lindo said on Friday.
She pointed to another incident last fall at the Waterloo Region District School Board where a teacher was charged with assault after allegedly taping two children in the classroom, as well as a report on the Peel District School Board which revealed that administrators were ill-prepared. to address anti-black racism directly affecting students.
“He’s been a minister all this time and even his statement now feels like a refusal to acknowledge how these cases are all connected,” Lindo said.
“What I’d like to hear from him is that he sees this as the straw that broke the camel’s back. It’s going to force him to make systemic changes in schools instead of saying ‘I going to watch one instance and one school’ is the only problem.
For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to stories of success within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project that Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.