Muslim parents demand answers from York board about principal's Facebook posts

Parents and students are demanding answers from the York Region District School Board about an investigation into Facebook posts by an elementary school principal that they say are offensive to Muslims.

'I feel like I've been stonewalled,' mother says

A Facebook post on the page of Ghada Sadaka deemed offensive by some Muslim parents and students at her school in Markham. (Facebook)

Parents and students are demanding answers from the York Region District School Board about an investigation into Facebook posts by an elementary school principal that they say are offensive to Muslims.

CBC News has spoken to a Muslim mother and her pre-teen daughter, who didn't want to be named, because the girl is still a senior student at Sir Wilfrid Laurier Public School in Markham where Ghada Sadaka is the principal. 

"I was mortified. I was scared," the girl said. "I  was surprised that someone would say these things and still be a principal of a multicultural school."

"I feel like I've been stonewalled," mother says 2:43

Complaints surfaced in September about a series of posts on Sadaka's Facebook page. The Toronto Star published a story detailing the concerns, which students shared at school.

In an email to CBC News, York Region District School Board trustee Billy Pang confirmed an investigation has taken place, saying board staff "have investigated and followed up on the matter," but because it is of "a personnel nature" he said he is not in a position to share any details.

Sadaka's posts have now been removed from her Facebook feed, but CBC News obtained screen shots.

In one, Sadaka shared a CNN video about Islam in Britain, adding her own comment: "This has to go viral. Share and post! Oh Lord."  

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

In another, Sadaka shared a photo showing two sets of women with the caption: "If bikinis are banned in Muslim countries, then burqas should be banned in Europe ..." Sadaka wrote, "Share if you agree."

One of the posts that led a student at Sir Wilfred Laurier Public School in Markham to complain about principal Ghada Sadaka. (Facebook)

The posts may have been pulled down, but the mother and daughter say they feel their concerns have been ignored.

"No one is taking accountability on this. I just feel like the board is sweeping it under the rug and hoping it goes away," the mother said. 

"I feel like I've been stonewalled."

CBC News tried to contact the York District School Board, as well as Sadaka, several times. Aside from Pang's email, they have not responded to requests for interviews.

At the time the story broke, Sadaka told the Toronto Star: "I appreciate your questions, but for any further information you will have to go through the board office.".

The Ontario College of Teachers, which is responsible for disciplining the province's educators, said in an email to CBC News it cannot confirm or deny an investigation was done. 

A spokesperson for the college said accusations of personal misconduct initially would be investigated by an educator's school board. If the board's investigation finds the person behaved inappropriately, the complaint is forwarded to the college, which can then hold a hearing of its own.

That hearing would be held in public, and could result in the loss of a person's teaching credentials.

Parents want answers

The college sent CBC News a link on Thursday that indicates Sadaka is a member in good standing.

CBC News interviewed another couple with a young daughter at Sir Wilfrid Laurier Public School. They say they've repeatedly tried to get answers from officials.

A mother is demanding answers from the York District School over a principal's Facebook posts. 0:19

"Even if the investigation is closed, I would expect something from the principal herself to the students or to the parents, whether it's an explanation or an apology," said the mother. "But there's been absolutely nothing."

"I've never faced this, and now my kid has to face this?" said one father, who's son is in Grade 2. "We need some answers."

'I don't feel safe'

Back in her living room, the pre-teen girl says she's now so uncomfortable at school, she avoids going to the school office at all costs.

That means on Eid, when her mom, dad and little sister went to the mosque for prayers, she didn't go for the first time ever. She would've been late for class, and that would've meant a trip to the principal's office.

"I shouldn't feel this feeling, it doesn't feel right. I don't like it," the girl said. "I should feel safe. I don't feel safe at all."

She added, "We've been taught to embrace all cultures, then someone comes in here and destroys that. 

"I don't feel it's right."

With files from Mike Smee