“Hate doesn’t drive out hate.” Trustee Becky Buck told the Bay Observer in an interview about her recent appointment as Vice Chair of the Hamilton Wentworth District School Board and the backlash from that appointment. She was discussing an objection to her selection that was made by two student trustees who indicated they were relaying criticisms that they had received largely from the student activist coalition, Hamilton Students for Justice. The coalition said Buck should not have been appointed after she was named in a report earlier this year investigating allegations of racism on the board made by a former student trustee. The report concluded that in a debate over removing Hamilton Police from HWDSB schools, Buck had used the term “Twitter trolls” to describe persons who had been critical of her on social media about the police issue. Beck told the Bay Observer, “There was definitely a need to correct some aspects the Police in Schools program, but I felt it still had value—especially in things like educating young people about human trafficking—an issue I care deeply about.” Beck said in the weeks leading up to the police vote all trustees received a great deal of social media traffic, “reaction became intense, overwhelming,” she said. “The few screenshots I took of the “trolling” I deleted a few weeks following the meeting as I had found it disturbing to see them whenever I went into my phone’s photo album.” However, she did save one of the tweets which was typical of the response:
Asked if she didn’t think the use of the term ‘twitter trolls’ was justified given the unpleasant personal nature of the comments she was receiving, Trustee Buck disagreed. “I do regret saying it. Speaking isn’t my forte and I usually write my thoughts out in advance, but in this instance, I didn’t do that. I reacted to some meanness.”
A first-term trustee Becky Buck was elected in 2018 to serve the West Mountain Wards 8 and 14, replacing long-time Board member Wes Hicks. She easily topped a field of five candidates capturing 6800 votes and 61 percent of the total votes cast.
After the racism report was released, Becky took racial sensitivity training recommended by the consultant along with fellow trustees which she said was a great benefit. “I do want to challenge myself,” she said. “I was grateful to have that training. We had nothing of that nature when we came into office.” She is open to the notion of white privilege, and considers herself fortunate to live in a time when the sky is the limit for women in whatever they wish to do. Before offering herself for the vice-chair and mindful that there might be some opposed because of the report, she met with all of her trustee colleagues, a majority of whom subsequently voted her to the position.
As much as she loves the work of a trustee, she admits that there is a climate of fear around the HWDSB table of saying the wrong thing. “It’s scary that in this social media era everything you say is analyzed and pulled apart. That if you have a position others disagree with—you are (considered) a hate -filled person. But it’s part of being in public office.”
Despite all the controversy Becky says its worth it. “The work in the committees is amazing,” she said, noting that she serves on between 8 and 10 committees as part of the job which pays roughly $13,500 per year and will increase by $2,500 as vice-chair. “You get an appreciation of the work that goes on in the classroom, that you couldn’t otherwise see. I’m excited to be there.”