A Toronto District School Board teacher, who wore blackface to class as part of his Halloween costume, has been placed on home assignment pending the outcome of an investigation into the incident.
According to CBC Radio, the incident happened during Halloween celebrations at the Parkdale Collegiate Institute on Friday. And a student who spoke with the news outlet said his entire class was left “shocked” and “confused” by what they saw.
“It made me feel uncomfortable,” the student, identified as Otis Stang revealed, adding that the teacher became defensive when they asked him what he was dressed as.
Stang said the teacher told them his supposed costume “looked cool.”
In the wake of the incident, the school’s principal, Julie Ardell, sent a letter to parents saying a student had notified the vice principal about a White staff member donning blackface in school on that day, Global News reported.
“Caricatures of peoples’ race or culture are not appropriate and are offensive and hurtful,” Ardell wrote, adding that the teacher was asked to wash his face right away.
“On behalf of Parkdale CI, I acknowledge and regret the harm this incident has caused to students, staff and families and our shared school climate,” said Ardell. “While we have begun the work of addressing anti-Black racism and all forms of discrimination, it is clear that we must do more.”
Following the incident, an online petition was also launched to request the Toronto District School Board to put in more effort to tackle anti-Black racism in schools. “At 9:30 am on October 29, 2021, a child in your high school, Parkdale Collegiate Institute took 11 pictures of his Grade 9 teacher in blackface,” a parent by name Cathy Gatlin, wrote.
“He was understandably upset. Other children were understandably upset,” Gatlin added. “When they asked the teacher what he was dressed up as, the teacher stated that he didn’t have an idea for his Halloween costume, so he decided to paint his face black.”
And though Gatlin told Global News she was satisfied with the principal’s swift actions after they were alerted about the incident, she was adamant more needs to be done as what happened was a manifestation of systemic problems in the school.
“My concern is, how could this have happened? How could we have let it come to this where a teacher has been hired that can even think that this is OK?” Gatlin asked. “What went wrong?”
“Something went wrong in our system,” she added.
There was a teacher at Parkdale CI with blackface on today. I am really disturbed and I need to know what are the next steps I need to take. He was removed from class. But more needs to happen. @leilasarangi @TheTorontoSun @TheTorontoStar @globeandmail @blogTO @blogUT pic.twitter.com/qHoTa0HjAW
— improv4health (@improv4health) October 29, 2021