Hamilton school board launches probe after accusation of ‘racism and oppression’

Allegations of racism and oppression within the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB) has sparked a third-party code of conduct investigation, according to the institution’s chair and secretary of the board.

The release comes in answer to a thread of tweets from student trustee Ahona Mehdi made on Saturday as her term ended with the HWDSB.

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“The HWDSB is a disgustingly racist and oppressive institution that serves the interest, success & well-being of white, straight, able-bodied, cis-gender staff & students,” Mehdi said in one post.

“I’m beyond disturbed to have attended HWDSB schools for 14 years — but I’m ready to unlearn & call them out.”

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Other accusations Mehdi made on Twitter included a claim she was shamed for not wearing a Christmas sweater to a board meeting, that a trustee insinuated Arabs/Muslims were evil, and that a trustee used the N-word in reference to Serena Williams.

In response, HWDSB chair Alex Johnstone and secretary Manny Figueiredo issued a joint statement on Saturday night saying they found Mehdi’s concerns “deeply disturbing.”

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“As an educational institution, we are committed to taking action that builds a culture of equity and inclusion,” the statement said.

“We will immediately begin a third-party code of conduct investigation to understand and address all of the concerns raised.”

The release also promised anti-racism and anti-oppression training for elected officials and staff in the coming school year.

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Mehdi’s comments come in the midst of HWDSB’s three-year Equity Action Plan seeking feedback for an anti-oppression framework through recognizing inequities in school systems and institutions.

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