York school board apologizes for principal's 'discriminatory' anti-Muslim posts

The York Region school board has formally apologized for "discriminatory and disrespectful" anti-Muslim social media posts by a former principal at a Markham elementary school.

Board admits it failed to uphold students' sense of safety in apology posted online

Ghada Sadaka, a former principal at Wilfrid Laurier Public School in Markham, came under fire from parents for Facebook posts that included Islamophobic and anti-refugee sentiments. (Shannon Martin/CBC)

The York Region District School Board has formally apologized for "discriminatory and disrespectful" anti-Muslim social media posts made by a former principal at a Markham elementary school. 

"The board would like to apologize to the school community for failing to uphold the shared values of respecting human rights, inclusivity and student safety," it said in a statement on its website. 

Ghada Sadaka was the principal at Sir Wilfrid Laurier Public School when she shared a number of Islamophobic and anti-refugee posts on her Facebook page, sometimes adding commentary of her own to videos or articles. The posts date back to 2015, but the issue surfaced in the fall of 2016 after parents brought them to the attention of the board. 

Sadaka issued a public apology at the time, and in November 2016 revealed she was going on leave.

Sadaka no longer works in a school but remains in a "centrally assigned role within the board," a spokesperson told CBC Toronto in an email. 

Parents complained investigation lacked transparency

At the time, the postings sparked considerable public outrage. Parents at the school eventually wrote a letter to the education minister condemning the board's handling of the incident, alleging the investigation lacked transparency and instruments for accountability. 

One of the Facebook posts shared by former Markham principal Ghada Sadaka. (Facebook)

Following more allegations of racism and other dysfunction within York region schools made shortly after the Sadaka incident, then-education minister Mitzie Hunter initiated an external review of the board.

That process ended with the departure of the board's former director.

In its statement, the board specifically apologized to Muslim students and their families.

"We recognize that the posts impacted your sense of safety and inherent self-dignity," the statement said.

"The board recognizes and reiterates that all families belong at Sir Wilfrid Laurier Public School and have the right to feel safe and secure in their learning environments."