Statement in response to the third-party investigation into the Waterloo Catholic District School Board

As community organizations that are a part of the Student and Family Advocate program in Ontario, Early Childhood Development Initiative (ECDI), and Parents of Black Children (PoBC) were contacted to provide support to the family of a four-year-old in the Waterloo region, who had the police called on him by Waterloo Catholic District School Board (WCDSB). On February 25th, 2022, we called on the Ministry of Education and Minister Stephen Lecce to conduct a third-party investigation into the Waterloo Catholic District School Board’s (WCDSB) decision to call police on a four-year-old Black child.   

Our voices were heard.

The report, provided to the family by the investigator, clearly outlines a pattern of dismissal towards the parents of the child and an unwillingness to engage the parents in the care plan for their child, as the report refers to, ‘indifference to the realities of her existence a Black woman and mother.’ This infantilizing of a Black mother is emblematic of the anti-Black racism that occurred in this school and at this board. Moreover, the findings in the report and the detailing of the account clearly indicate a principal who did not have the skills or capacity to do her job effectively.   

As we continue to process the report with the family, we would like to acknowledge the strength and courage of the parents in this case who demanded justice, while still dealing with the pain and trauma that was caused throughout this incident. 

It is disheartening and painful to read this investigation and see the many points and places where the child involved was let down by WCDSB staff and leadership.  This is particularly concerning as school is a place where his well-being and safety should have been prioritized, instead, he was criminalized and not treated like a four-year-old. The adultification of Black children needs to stop and what the WCDSB has done to this child is criminal. 

We believe that every recommendation in the report, 14 of which are directed at the school board and 5 of which are directed to the Ministry of Education, be implemented within the timeframe put forward in the investigation – one year. 

We are truly heartened to see the acknowledgment of systemic racism called out within the findings of this investigation, especially after the ill-informed, unknowledgeable, and harmful assertion made publicly by WCDSB Director of Education, Loretta Notten, that she takes “umbrage to the allegation that there is systemic racism” in the WCDSB.  This lack of basic understanding and denial of systemic racism, illustrates her unsuitability for her role… The lack of empathy, and emotional intelligence displayed while handling this case cannot go unnoticed and the well-being of our children cannot be in the hands of people who can justify and defend such reprehensible acts of anti-Black racism. To date we have received 745 emails calling for her removal as Director of Education of WCDSB.  

Justice is not served until the staff and leadership involved in this incident are removed from school systems completely and not able to harm any child again. We demand the removal of both Director Notten and the principal involved in this case for their incompetence and mismanagement. The people we trust to take care, nurture, and teach our children do not have the room to harm or segregate their standards of care for them in any way. Enough is enough.

The school board and professional bodies will attempt to deflect blame and shirk responsibility by hiding behind process and protocol, but the fact remains that all the recommendations in the report, with the exception of 5, were directed to the board. 

We want to reiterate that there is no excuse or justification to ever call the police on a 4-year-old child. This investigation can only be impactful based on how effectively and immediately the recommendations are taken up by both the WCDSB and the ministry. The investigator has done their job, now the board has a chance to do theirs.

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