Cornwall Ontario – What should happen when Swastikas or other Hate Graffiti are discovered in a school washroom?
If you’re York University, or a high school in Brockville Ontario, or this high school in the US, perhaps a letter like this outlines the appropriate actions?
Dear Students, Parents and Guardians,
I want to share with you information about an event that took place at Westland. I am sending you this letter to give you the facts and to assure you that we are addressing this incident.
One of our boys’ bathrooms was vandalized with multiple images of swastikas drawn in ink pen, in pencil and with glue stick.
Once we were informed about the images we immediately secured the location, contacted the Montgomery County Police Department (MCPD) and contacted the Montgomery County Public Schools office of school support and improvement. After appropriate documentation by our staff and by the police our building services staff removed the vandalism.
We are very saddened by this incident. This type of behavior will not be tolerated. Once the culprit(s) are identified, consequences will be administered in accordance with the MCPS Student Code of Conduct.
We will continue to work closely with police, as well as MCPS security, on this investigation. If you have further questions, please call the school at 301.320.6515.
Alison L. Serino Principal
That sadly didn’t happen when former CCVS and current Glengarry High School principal Patricia “Trish” Brown was informed of Swastikas in a boy’s washroom not once, but three times by a former resident of Cornwall Ontario who cited this experience as a factor in their leaving the community.
The man had lost family in the Holocaust and after two weekly attempts by phone, and one in person, asked this writer to attend the school where the Swastikas were still in the same location after about a month.
A VP at the school notified this writer within an hour that the hate graffiti was removed, and apologized. At that point I’d written a story which was picked up in print and online.
Now kids are kids. Graffiti happens, and CCVS I was told had a team for its removal, and is normally a very clean facility.
The school’s reaction was to bring in a speaker to talk to the kids, but the real issue in many people’s eyes was Principal Brown not removing the Swastikas in a reasonable amount of time; or frankly at all as it was VP Jason Wagensveld (who’s now been promoted to principal of Viscount Alexander Public School) that had them covered.
David K Thomas, the former head of the UCDSB was allowed to mysteriously retire, and Trish was moved on to Glengarry High, as she’d moved from TAGWI before that. There is a parent who has alleged that Principal Brown’s handling, or mishandling, of a case of bullying of her sons led to her departure from TAGWI to CCVS. That matter is still under investigation.
The school board hired a major Toronto Law Firm (Miller Thomson) after I wrote that in my opinion at that time I felt that Ms Brown was racist. They issued suit for $75,000, which was dropped after I removed the stories. In other words, bury the story or else….
Then York University in Toronto had its own Swastika incident. I again wrote about it and again Miller Thomson went on the attack, and this time after consulting a local lawyer, was told that I might not be able to prove that Principal Brown was in fact racist. The law works differently than we lay people do. Again, that content came down.
Then the Brockville incident. This time however I explained about the racism comment and asked our viewers to vote on their definition.
Sure enough our viewers didn’t feel it was racism, but this time when Miller Thomson essentially sent the same copy and paste threat I decided to stand my ground.
Excerpts unedited of their letter.
As someone that’s written over 10,000 pieces on CFN without ever having to write a cheque for not writing the truth; (or any other reason) being told by a lawyer that what I’ve written was a lie was frankly insulting. I sent a letter back to the School board via Miller Thomson. (unedited)
WITHOUT PREJUDICEPlease inform your client (the Upper Canada District School board) that they have twenty four (24) hours from receipt of this email to publish an apology to myself, and the community of Cornwall for their actions in this horrible abuse of power on their website, social media, and on all Cornwall area media outlets at their own cost...Furthermore the UCDSB will donate at least $25,000.00 to the Simon Wiesenthal Centre in Toronto. LINK.Whomever at the school board is responsible for initiating this latest action, and previous acts of threats and bullying to myself, as well as the handling of the situation that not only didn’t see police called in when the swastikas were discovered, but when it came to light that they had not been removed in a reasonable amount of time, will immediately resign or be removed from their positions..The remaining board members, if any, will immediately initiate sensitivity training regarding anti-semitism and racism..The remaining board members, if any, will announce an initiative to support diversity on its own board which currently shows no visible minorities..A proper outside investigation of former Board Director David Thomas and Principal Brown will be made including the incident at TAGWI that occurred shortly before she left. Proper actions will be taken after said investigation..Please confirm delivery of this email to your client, and their response..The World is now watching, and if all of these terms are not met then appropriate actions will be taken.
It seems boggling that a school board would be burning through major legal cash when it’s closing twelve area schools including CCVS, and getting worse rankings for its local secondary schools according to the Fraser Institute as well.
It was at this point that famed Ottawa attorney Lawrence Greenspon of Greenspon, Brown & Associates agreed to defend any action in this David and Goliath case.
I seek no personal gain. At the end if any monies are won they will be donated to the Simon Wiesenthal Centre after legal costs. Frankly I think the demands in my letter to the UCDSB via Miller Thomson are quite reasonable given the scope of what’s happened.
Sometimes in life we have to stand up for what’s right. And when we do it’s always better when others stand up with us. The only way to defeat certain behaviors is to stand up and stay your ground.
This is a community where Racism and Anti-Semitism do exist.
When this was posted on social media the public defended the use of the term “Jewed” which clearly was racist in the context of its use.
I would like to see this situation eventually educate and help make this a better community, and make sure that we’re raising better children who while becoming more sensitive to the perils of racism, also learn about accountability and how to become responsible adults in a better fashion and deal with issues like this when they occur.
At this point someone or some people have to take account for what’s transpired. I also am going to be accountable and apologize to Principal Brown for calling her a racist. Here is my apology:
After much consideration I have decided to apologize for any confusion or offense regarding the use of the term racist in sharing my opinion about the actions of former CCVS, and current Glengarry District High school Secondary Principal Patricia (Trish) Brown who left swastikas up in a washroom at the school for approximately one month instead of having them promptly removed.My use of the term came from my root experience of having lost so many family members to the Holocaust; from researching Nazi Germany, and in particular the diaries and works of Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels for the work I created which resulted in the 2003 Oscar nominated Best Feature Documentary Prisoner of Paradise, and from my experience with Anti Semitism, and Racism in the Cornwall & SD&G Area.I now understand that we come from different perspectives, and that there may be in fact another explanation as to why Ms Brown, after repeated requests by another adult that had lost family in the Holocaust, did not have the swastikas promptly removed, or call the police and report them.