One of the Hamilton Wentworth District School Board’s two student trustee has issued a scathing allegation of racism within the Board. Ahona Mehdi, a grade 12 Westmount student tweeted a series of posts yesterday that read, “today marks the end of my term as a 2019-2020 HWDSB Student Trustee. No, I’m not grateful to have been in this role. In all honesty, it was the most patronizing experience of my life. I’m beyond grateful to no longer serve as the board’s token for student voice & diversity. The HWDSB is a disgustingly racist & oppressive institution that serves the interest, success & well-being of white, straight, able-bodied, cis-gender staff & students. I’m beyond disturbed to have attended HWDSB schools for 14 years – but I’m ready to unlearn & call them out.
She went on to cite examples of racist behavior: “White Trustee using the n-word in reference to Serena Williams. White Trustee claiming that there is “too much Black leadership” in our extremely anti-Black school board. White Trustee claiming that Arabs/Muslims are evil & that we shouldn’t waste our time/breath discussing such hopeless people. White Trustees/Staff consistently encouraging me (a Brown female) to operate more like my co-Student -Trustee (a white male). White Trustee shaming me (a brown girl) for not wearing a Christmas sweater to a Board meeting.- Being silenced, lectured, called aggressive & told to trust the expertise of white Staff when wanting to discuss an anti-oppressive/anti-racist lens for the Safe Schools Panel.”
Board Chair Alec Johnston and Education Director Manny Figueiredo issued a statement in response, “A former student trustee at HWDSB has brought forward serious concerns about racism and oppression. As an educational institution, we are committed to taking action that builds a culture of equity and inclusion. The concerns are deeply disturbing. We will immediately begin a third-party Code of Conduct investigation to understand and address all of the concerns raised. We believe that it is vital to advance the work of equity and anti-racism. Anti-racism and anti-oppression training will continue to roll out in HWDSB for elected officials and staff in the 2020-21 school year, among many other actions. As a Board, we are committed to receiving input and taking action to build positive and inclusive cultures in our schools, workplaces and communities.”