Black youth mentorship program resumes after friction between Hamilton board and HCCI

The Hamilton Centre for Civic Inclusion (HCCI) will continue its black youth mentorship program in local public schools.

The program continues today, and will expand to another school next month

Greg Dongen, co-chair of the black youth council, was one of the organizers of a walk-out at Bernie Custis school on Feb. 12 to protest the cancellation of the black youth mentorship program. The program has since resumed. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

The Hamilton Centre for Civic Inclusion (HCCI) will resume its black youth mentorship program in local public schools, after resolving a dispute with the school board that prompted a walkout by hundreds of students this month.

The centre and the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB) released a joint announcement Thursday saying they've resolved their differences that stemmed from a Feb. 4 press conference hosted by HCCI on racism in schools. Now, the monthly program will resume Thursday at Bernie Custis Secondary School, and expand to Sir Allan MacNab Secondary School in March.

The board put the program on hold after that Feb. 4 event, citing concerns about how student data was handled.

The two sides have reviewed their memorandum of understanding, the statement says, and the Ontario Anti-Racism Directorate mediated. 

"The partners have agreed on guiding principles that include strengthening communications between the organizations, providing a forum for student voice, and adhering to an accountability framework," it says.

"There will be opportunities for enhanced communication as this program moves forward."

The friction began Feb. 4, when HCCI held a press conference at Hamilton city hall to release a report on behalf of HWDSB Kids Need Help. The report, called Deconstructing Racism and Islamophobia, included information HWDSB Kids Need Help compiled from students. Current and former students also said the board has been too slow at addressing racism.

HWDSB director Manny Figueiredo said the report may have violated board ethics standards around student privacy. The HCCI said otherwise. The disagreement resulted in the board temporarily cancelling a Feb. 27 event with author Desmond Cole. 

Hundreds of students marched around Bernie Custis school in protest.

The statement says HWDSB school administrators "continue to work hard and are committed to addressing inequities through a lens of truth and reconciliation so healing, learning and better outcomes are achieved for students."


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