The York Region school board has publicly apologized for the anti-Muslim, “discriminatory and disrespectful” social media postings of an elementary school principal.
“The board would like to apologize to the school community for failing to uphold the shared values of respecting human rights, inclusivity and student safety,” says the statement, posted online, about the materials on Ghada Sadaka’s Facebook page.
“In particular, we apologize to the Muslim students, parents and families of Sir Wilfrid Laurier Public School. We recognize that the posts impacted your sense of safety and inherent self-dignity.”
The postings by principal Sadaka — who is no longer assigned to a school, but working centrally at the York Region District School Board — date back to 2016. Controversy erupted after the Islamophobic materials came to light, but the board allowed her to remain as head of the school during its investigation.
Sadaka later apologized for the Facebook items, but the incident was seen as a much larger problem of how the board was mishandling numerous incidents of racism and Islamophobia.
The apology was part of a settlement of a human rights tribunal case launched by parents and the National Council of Canadian Muslims.
Leila Nasr, communications coordinator with the council, said the move “acknowledges the concerns of parents … and saying ‘it wasn’t okay, and we hear you.’ ”
The council will also provide training sessions on diversity and inclusion for administrators at the York board during this school year.
“Certainly, there was a very regrettable situation that happened with one of our staff members at a school … that raised questions about the board’s commitment to equity, about the board’s response to when situations happen that are offensive and are racist, and the start of the school year is a really wonderful opportunity to make our commitment very, very clear to our students, our staff and our community members,” said York Director of Education Louise Sirisko, who was not at the helm during the tumult at the board.
Sirisko said the board has run already public consultations regarding Islamophobia, anti-Black racism and other issues “a call to action for making sure that we have strong policies, practices and that we are building trust with our community.”
Charline Grant, a parent who launched her own human rights case against the board for ignoring the racism her son experienced — and who is now Sandals Leather Side Cafè KLB103 In Carved Metalizzato Openings Noir CAFèNOIR qSPRtwt— supported parents with the Sadaka case.
“It’s huge” to get a public apology, she said. “To have the board acknowledge that they did something wrong … means a lot not only to parents but to the community, to show others that what we stood up for, the transparency and the changes, that the board is moving along in that direction.”
However Grant — herself the target of a racial slur uttered by a trustee who later stepped down — said the board still has more work to do.
After the Sadaka incident, and a number of complaints from parents and staff about racism and troubling incidents being overlooked, the then-Liberal government sent in two troubleshooters to investigate the board and suggest improvements.
Mitzie Hunter, the Liberal education minister at the time, gave trustees a number of directives and a short timeline to create a plan to clean up the troubled board.
That led to the termination of the former director, as well as a number of moves to boost inclusivity including the board hiring its own human rights commissioner.
Sadaka’s posts included videos that claimed to show violent “Muslim takeovers” of Paris and London, including one that said “Must see: Dutch mayor tells fellow Muslims they can f-- off if they don’t like freedom.” She also posted articles that questioned bringing refugees to Canada, given their “terrorist sympathies.”
Sirisko said Sadaka is currently working in one of the board’s education centres and could one day return to lead a school, but only “with the support of the community and the reassurance and understanding that people make mistakes, and we learn from those mistakes” and can “demonstrate our strength of how we’ve learned.”
However, she added, “the timing is not right yet, we are still in a period of healing and repair.”
Kristin Rushowy is a Toronto-based reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow her on Twitter: @krushowy
Noor Javed is a Toronto-based reporter covering current affairs in the York region. Follow her on Twitter: Green Dresses Slit Gowns Sexy Women's Prom Evening Light Long Mermaid Satin Dreagel with 71qwC