Parents question Waterloo school board about racism, children's safety amid teacher assault charges
School board said staff are setting up a community session to hear from families
The Waterloo Region District School Board met with the Coalition of Muslim Women Monday to discuss concerns from racialized parents about their children's safety following assault charges against a Kitchener teacher.
The executive director of the coalition says the non-profit group has gotten more than a dozen calls and messages from parents since a 52-year-old Alpine Public School teacher was charged Nov. 4 for allegedly taping up two children in her classroom.
"Lots of unanswered questions right now, lots of gaps with information that parents had," Fauzia Mazhar said. "They learned about it through the media or from people who they knew."
The parent of one of the children involved in the Oct. 22 incident told CBC Kitchener-Waterloo at the time that he felt that race was a factor in what happened to the students.
The father's identity is not being published in order to protect that of his child.
He told CBC that the school board needs to do more to protect students, including re-evaluating its hiring practices.
Similar comments flooded the Coalition of Muslim Women's hate reporting system — as did calls and messages from parents wanting more information, Mazhar said.
Mazhar said staff met virtually with about 30 parents who had reached out with concerns, only some of whom had children at Alpine Public School.
Mazhar said even though the teacher has not been charged with a hate crime, many parents who reached out to her group felt otherwise.
"Criminally it may not be a hate crime and it may not be looked at as a hate crime, but the perception in the community is that it was a hate crime," she said.
"The perception of something that happens in the community is also important."
'It's not just about listening to their concerns'
The coalition shared those concerns with the board during Monday's meeting, but also discussed how to prevent racism from happening in the classroom.
She said the coalition also recommended the board set up future meetings with parents to discuss how these incidents are handled.
"So that [parents] understand what has transpired without breaking privacy or confidentiality," she said. "It's not just about listening to their concerns but also being prepared to answer questions that they will have."
In an email to CBC, the school board said it has heard from community members, including Black and racialized families, concerned about their children's safety.
The board said staff are in the process of setting up a community session to hear from families and caregivers.
"The feedback will be aggregated to inform the next steps and maintain accountability as we move forward to ensure that we address these concerns in a systemic way," the board said. "We will make every effort to ensure people feel safe and that they can speak freely."