Hamilton

HCCI says there were no violations of student privacy in racism report

The Hamilton Centre for Civic Inclusion (HCCI) is fighting back against the notion it violated privacy rules by sharing information gathered during a session involving students at Sir John A. Macdonald Secondary School in 2018.

The HWDSB paused a black youth mentorship program, leading to a student walkout

Bernie Custis Secondary School students protest on King Street East on Wednesday. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

The Hamilton Centre for Civic Inclusion (HCCI) is fighting back against the notion it violated privacy rules by sharing information gathered during a session involving students at Sir John A. Macdonald Secondary School in 2018.

That conversation, which was attended by 18 students, is now at the centre of a disagreement between the HCCI and Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB), which announced Wednesday that it was pausing a mentorship program for black youth at Bernie Custis Secondary School out of privacy concerns.

The board says the program is on hold until representatives can meet with the HCCI next week do discuss whether a report on racism in schools that it recently released violated their joint agreement.

In response to that decision, hundreds of students walked out of class.

HWDSB director Manny Figueiredo said he had no issue hearing the extensive criticisms contained in the report.

But a memorandum of understanding signed in 2018 requires HCCI to clear board-related research with the HWDSB research ethics committee. There are strict privacy rules around such research, he said, including ensuring that students involved know how their information is being used.

Greg Dongen, co-chair of the black youth council was among the students who walked out of the high school Wednesday. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

The HCCI issued its own statement on the situation Thursday. In it interim executive director Kojo Damptey wrote that the HCCI simply took notes and kept record of "discussions, concerns and questions" raised about police and their presence at Sir John. A. Macdonald.

"This conversation and the resulting notes were not a form of research," he wrote.

"It is also important to note that no confidential information about students was shared by HCCI in this report."

Damptey added the HCCI members who attended the discussion were there as members of the black community students could identify with and "not specifically as a function of their role within the Black Youth Mentorship Program."

On Wednesday Damptey cold CBC he couldn't comment on the privacy concerns until he meets with the board next week. HWDSB should have communicated better with the students around why the program was paused though, he said.

An email to the group from the board says the meeting is required to try to "repair the harm" and to see "how or if" the partnership can continue. 

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