Toronto students and parents are calling for the resignation of a high school principal after she sparked outrage by creating and circulating a list that singled out black students for tracking purposes.
People have accused Peggy Aitchison of racially profiling black students at the Etobicoke School for the Arts. She said she created the list and distributed it in November to teachers to track “achievement gaps” among all students of color, The Globe and Mail reported. When students found out about the list in February, they confronted her.
“In the context and with an objective of supporting success for all students, particularly those for whom we know as a group there are gaps, I shared a list of black students with our teaching staff at a November meeting,” Aitchison said earlier this month, as reported by The Globe and Mail.
Aitchison has since apologized for the “inappropriate” list, and the Toronto District School Board has transferred her to another school upon her request. But some students are calling for the district school board to impose a punishment. Students and alumni have both sent a petition to the school district board calling for Aitchison’s total resignation or for her to undergo equity and anti-racism training, the Globe reported on Thursday. The board received the petition on Thursday and has not yet responded to their requests.
I want my principal to know this has real emotional effects on people of color, and it is damaging to their well-being. It tells them they will be only seen by their identity and that they will be racialized for the rest of their life. Noah, an ESA student
George Brown, a parent of an ESA student who was included in Aitchison’s list, filed a “human rights complaint” against Aitchison and the district school board in response to the list, CTV News Toronto reported.
“It took the photos of the black students in the yearbook and places it beside their names,” Brown told CTV News Toronto. “It is not being done on the basis of collected data. It is profiled.”
Brown’s son, Noah, told CTV News Toronto that the list made him feel like his academic and artistic accomplishments were less important.
“I want my principal to know this has real emotional effects on people of color, and it is damaging to their well-being,” he said. “It tells them they will be only seen by their identity and that they will be racialized for the rest of their life.”
Brown and his son are seeking for the school district to implement bias training and individual apologies for each student who was on the list.
“A mistake was made by the principal of Etobicoke School of the Arts that has hurt students and their families; the principal and the [school district board] apologize for this,” the board’s Director of Education John Malloy said in a statement to HuffPost. “Moving forward, we will be working with Principal Aitchison and all principals on appropriate training. In the meantime, the Board continues to investigate and review these issues.”
ESA is a “specialized, public arts-academic high school,” according to its website. Students must submit applications and audition to attend the school.
The scandal comes one year after a study by the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto found that specialized arts high schools in Toronto are mostly attended by white, wealthy students. The schools’ populations don’t reflect the city’s diversity, the study said.
Aitchison did not respond to a request for comment.
This article has been updated to reflect a statement from Malloy.