First Nations students to stay home after racist graffiti, threats against school

Racist slurs against Indigenous and black people were found spray-painted this week on a school bus and near East Antigonish Education Centre/Academy, a Primary to Grade 12 school.

Warning: The following story contains offensive language

Racist graffiti was found on a bus that serves East Antigonish Education Centre/Academy in Monastery, N.S. (Gary Mansfield/CBC)

The chief of a Nova Scotia First Nation says the hundred students from his band who attend East Antigonish Education Centre/Academy will not be at school the rest of this week as RCMP investigate threats and racist graffiti.

The Strait Regional School Board said it closed the Monastery, N.S., school Wednesday on advice of the RCMP, who say they are now looking into threats against the school in the wake of graffiti found Monday on a school bus and on a nearby sign.

Chief Paul Prosper of Paqtnkek Mi'kmaw Nation said he was "shocked" at the racist incidents, and students from the First Nation will remain home for the week.

"This would allow us to seek out proper resources and to reach out to the African-Nova Scotia community as well to come up with a detailed plan on reintegration of our students into that school," he said in a interview.

Racist slurs against Indigenous and black people were found spray-painted Monday in four spots on a school bus and on a sign near East Antigonish Education Centre/Academy, a Primary to Grade 12 school. They included F--k Natives and N--ger Life.

This phrase was found spray-painted on the back of a school bus in Monastery, N.S. (Submitted by Sierra Julian)

On Wednesday morning, RCMP said officers had launched an investigation into allegations shared on social media that at least one person had been making verbal threats against the school.

"The individual heard someone in person make these threats, they went home and posted a comment on social media what they had heard," said Cpl. Dal Hutchinson. "As a result, it had a ripple effect through the community and that's when someone contacted RCMP in Antigonish."

Ford Rice, superintendent of schools for the Strait Regional School Board, said an education psychologist and guidance councillors will be at East Antigonish Education Centre/Academy on Thursday, along with members of the RCMP, Paqtnkek Mi'kmaw Nation and the black community.

"We'll be doing a couple of grade-level appropriate assemblies whereby we can have students voice their concerns and listen to their concerns, and from that we'll do a plan forward in terms of what we need to address moving forward," said Rice.

Rice said he's aware some parents will keep their students home for the rest of the week.

"That's obviously a parental decision to do that. We want all of our students to be safe and secure," Rice said.

Chief Paul Prosper says the 100 students from Paqtnkek Mi’kmaw Nation will not attend school at East Antigonish Education Centre for the rest of the week. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

Prosper said he doesn't believe the racist graffiti reflects the community and that it was "more than likely a very minor exception."

"There's a lot of wonderful things going on with our community and the surrounding community, and it was a shock to many," he said.

Lynn Lafford, a parent of three students at the school, said she and other parents heard about the threat in an email that was sent to parents Tuesday night.

"I'm still in shock. The school receiving a threat like that is just unthinkable," said Lafford.

Lynn Lafford, a parent of three students at the school, said she and other parents heard about the threat in an email that was sent to parents Tuesday night. (Gary Mansfield/CBC)

Lafford said her children, ages five, 10, 12, saw the graffiti that was marked near the school.

"It's scary and these kids shouldn't have to see that kind of racism," said Lafford.

Elizabeth Googoo, who has grandchildren at the school, said she thinks the graffiti was "disrespectful" and "scary for our children."

"Last night, I told my daughter, 'Don't let your kids go to school today,'" said Googoo. 

Googoo said she was relieved to hear school was cancelled.

"Especially with that shooting that was going on in Florida and all this and that. I said this is coming too close to where we are," she said.

With files from Gary Mansfield