Calgary teens protest after principal uses N-word

Story by CBC Kids News • 2020-10-09 14:04

Teens have a list of demands following walkout

“Black youth matter.”

That was the message that rang out over the streets of Calgary on Thursday, after hundreds of students walked out of class to protest anti-Black racism.

Teens at Bishop McNally High School organized the walkout after two recordings surfaced of Calgary Catholic School District staff using the N-word.

Students from dozens of high schools across the city took part in the protest.

Organizers said they will continue to push for change.

“We're going to do the same thing every day until something changes,” said 16-year-old student McArthur Hilton, as his classmates cheered.

Instagram post by sankofayyc shows group of students standing in protest.

What happened?

Last month, four students at St. Michael School in Calgary were suspended after they shared a recording of their principal using a racial slur.

“So how come it's OK for you to say [the N-word]?" said principal Lianne Anderson in the recording.

(What’s the N-word? Read this article from CBC Kids News to learn what it means.)

At the time, the school board said the fact that the kids recorded their principal without her knowledge and posted it online violated the student code of conduct.

That’s why they were suspended.

The second N-word incident took place at Bishop McNally sometime in the past two years, but the video only recently surfaced on social media.

The school district has since apologized for both incidents.

Students gather around reporters.

A non-profit organization called Sankofa Arts and Music Foundation, which uses art and music as tools for social change, helped the students write a list of demands. (Image credit: sankofayyc/Instagram)

Students react

Walkout organizers say that apology doesn’t go far enough.

“It's such a derogatory term and it needs to be stopped,” Hilton said, speaking in a group of students.

“I don't appreciate that from an older person who is supposed to be an example to us,” he said.

Students expect teachers to do the right thing, Hilton said, which means “they should not be using that word at all.”

What’s next?

Students have written a list of demands for the school district.

Here are some of the things they’re asking for:

In a statement, a spokesperson for the province’s Department of Education said the use of the N-word by staff is “completely unacceptable and inappropriate."

“It is our expectation that the school division will take steps to listen to their community and work to ensure safe, welcoming and caring learning environments for all of their students and staff.”

With files from Lucie Edwardson/CBC

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