Some students were suspended and other youths banned from school events because of behaviour at a football game that provoked allegations of racism, administrators at Moncton High and Riverview high schools said Thursday.
The administrators issued a statement to parents on Thursday evening after CBC News reported that some people in the stands at the game Sept. 29 yelled at Syrian students at the game and taunted them with racial slurs.
Grade 11 student Moiad Alhamoud, his brother and four of his friends are Syrian refugees who attended the game and said they heard the racial slurs and had things thrown at them.
"They was like, 'Where did you came from? You shouldn't be here. Just leave,'" said Alhamoud.
Racism not tolerated, schools say
Administrators for both schools said in the statement they want everyone to know that racism is not accepted or tolerated in either school or at extracurricular events.
"We work proactively to promote kindness, understanding, appreciation, and inclusion of all cultures, races, and backgrounds through in-class and out of class learning opportunities such as assemblies, curricular-based learning, and extracurricular activities," the statement reads.
"When our students make mistakes and exhibit problem behaviours and misunderstandings in this regard, we work with those students to help them learn and change their way of thinking and behaving. We also apply appropriate consequences to reinforce these required changes in behavior."
The statement goes on to describe what happened at the football game and how staff dealt with it.
It said students from both schools made mistakes and behaved in inappropriate ways.
"During the halftime, staff members from both schools separated the students, so they were sitting apart in the bleachers. The second half of the game carried on without incident."
Administrators said allegations of racist comments were made after the game was finished.
The allegations were investigated.
Students suspended, banned from events
"It was determined that the comments came from youth sitting in the Riverview High School crowd," said the statement. "Most of these youths are not students at any school."
But the administrators said students who showed problem behaviour have been dealt with by their respective schools.
"Anyone identified acting in a racist way from Riverview High School received a suspension. Other youth that were not students that engaged in racist comments have been banned from attending future school-related events."
The administrators concluded by saying such situations create opportunities for learning for the school communities.
"As a result of this situation, staff from both schools have already and will be spending some time helping our students be kind, understanding, appreciative and inclusive, no matter who you are. We encourage parents and guardians to continue this conversation with your child at home."
Education key to ending racism
Justin Ryan, spokesperson for the Multicultural Association of the Greater Moncton Area, said incidents of racism are isolated.
While he wasn't shocked by the reports of the racism Syrian refugees experienced, he said it does show the need for more education.
"When you hear a statement like, 'Why don't you go back home to your own country,' they clearly don't understand what's happening back in the home country," Ryan said.
"It shows a complete lack of awareness of the reality that the kids have faced as well as a lack of empathy of what they must be going through here."
City official responds
Moncton deputy mayor Charles Légere said situations like this allow the community, which is welcoming a lot of newcomers, to have an important conversation.
'Adults can't make kids feel welcome — not really. Only other kids can do that.' - Justin Ryan, Multicultural Association of the Greater Moncton Area
"Young people and all of us have to learn to live together. Sometimes it's emotional, and it's unfortunate … but we have to rise above and we need to support one another and support our recent immigrants."
Ryan said the students at the football game who responded to the racism they witnessed by starting a cheer of, "Don't be racist," took the right approach.
"Adults can't make kids feel welcome — not really," he said. "Only other kids can do that. A big part of the youth programming that we have is cultural diversity training … to set the tone for what a school is.
"Support is standing up and getting involved and taking action when you see inequity, when you see injustice, when you see people being hurt, when you see actions that are at odds with what you want your community to be — it involves stepping up."
The association's cross-cultural workshops are available for students, teachers, workplaces and community groups. Ryan encourages anyone who wants to learn more about welcoming newcomers to contact his office.