Ottawa-Carleton District School Board violated Ontario’s Human Rights Code by failing to properly address a student’s lingering concerns following threatening encounters with an anti-Semitic peer, court found of human rights in the province.
In a ruling released last month, Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario adjudicator Leslie Reaume weighed in on a human rights complaint filed six years ago by the parents of David Armitage , who was a teenager at the time of the complaint.
According to the ruling, Armitage was threatened and assaulted by his classmate, who was also a minor at the time. The other student was charged under the Youth Criminal Justice Act and therefore cannot be identified.
Armitage was also the unwanted recipient of rants covering violent, racist, sexual and pornographic topics, as well as the Holocaust, Nazis and Hitler, despite telling his classmate he was not Jewish. , wrote Reaume.
After a family car parked at their country home was defaced with a swastika and other hateful symbols, Armitage became so terrified he slept in his parents’ bedroom, Reaume wrote.
Armitage completed his last semester of high school online and skipped his June 2016 graduation ceremony instead of risking a meeting with his former classmate, who was allowed to return to school after a suspension, said she added.
By deciding to readmit the other student before properly consulting with Armitage – who had complained of feeling unsafe – the school board erred, Reaume concluded.
“There was no review [Armitage’s] experiences, his lingering fears, the supports he would need, and the likely impact on his ability to do well in school during what has been described as a critical semester,” she wrote.
Laura Armitage, David Armitage’s mother, said the court’s findings were not surprising.
“We knew it was wrong,” she said.
David Armitage, now 22 and a college graduate, declined through his parents to be interviewed.
“It’s in his past,” his mother said. “He has very strong opinions about what happened and I’ll let him explain them one day, maybe.”
The key to education to eradicate hatred: mother
A year after Armitage’s experience, the other student went on a racist spray-painting spree.
He was later sentenced to prison after pleading guilty to incitement to hatred, mischief against religious buildings, threatening conduct, possession of weapons and violation of conditions imposed after an earlier conviction.
The Armitage family are speaking out about the court’s long-awaited decision to raise awareness for those who face repeated discrimination, David’s father Jim Armitage said.
“The odds that our family will experience hate-motivated actions against us, white supremacist actions against us, that just doesn’t make sense, does it?” he said. “We have the privilege of never knowing [that] never.”
Rooting out hate early, in the classroom, is key, said Laura Armitage.
“For that to happen in a school and for the school to not act appropriately and recognize him for what he was and respond to us in that situation, obviously it’s very important to remedy,” she said.
Reaume found the school’s first actions, up to and including the other student’s suspension, to be prompt and reasonable.
The school board responds
The OCDSB is carefully reviewing and considering the court’s decision, a board spokesperson said by email.
“[The board] is committed to improving its practices when it comes to supporting students who have experienced hateful behavior,” the statement added.
The council has also worked to address issues of hate and discrimination by adopting a new human rights policy earlier this year and planning three workshops on the continuing impacts of the Holocaust and anti-Semitism in partnership with the Center for Holocaust Education and Scholarship.
A newly formed group of Jewish educators has also assembled a team of writers “to create ready-to-use learning activities for use in K-12 classrooms,” the carrier said. word.