A Richmond Hill high school teacher has been accused of posting Islamophobic tweets against his own students, the York Region District School Board (YRDSB) has confirmed.
The English teacher at Richmond Green Secondary School is currently being investigated by the school administration, the superintendent of the school and a representative from the YRDSB.
“This incident is an anomaly,” Licinio Miguelo, a YRDSB spokesperson told New Canadian Media. “We have a robust system here to ensure our schools all have an inclusive environment.” He cited board section number 240 of the Respectful Workplace and Learning Environment policy where the YRDSB recognizes its responsibility to support, “an environment respectful of human rights and free of discrimination and harassment.”
Zeinab]Aidid told New Canadian Media that in one tweet sent in early June, the teacher allegedly posted (in response to Muslims praying during work hours): “Pray on your own time. Like pooping. Do it in private and wash your hands after.”
When asked what the repercussions would be if the accused teacher was found guilty, he said: “I don’t want to speculate on the outcome of the investigation. I can assure you we would take all of our policies into account.”
The investigators are also looking into whether the account was hacked by an impersonator, he added.
“Internet’s the Real World”
The tweets in question were compiled and e-mailed to the YRDSB and school officials at Richmond Green on Wednesday night by a team of students led by Zeinab Aidid, a student at the University of Toronto, and a student at Richmond Green.
Aidid told New Canadian Media that in one tweet sent in early June, the teacher allegedly posted (in response to Muslims praying during work hours): “Pray on your own time. Like pooping. Do it in private and wash your hands after.”
Other tweets posted in May read: ‘You Muslims are really on a roll copying each other tonight. Oh right they don’t want you thinking for yourself’ and in another: ‘Decided that I am way too racist to be a teacher.’
“[O]n the teacher’s part this is really reckless. It’s concerning to me that a person like that is teaching our children.” – Zeinab Aidid
Aidid said she is certain the accused teacher, who posted a photograph of themself in the several unconfirmed accounts he/she allegedly tweeted from (one of which has now been deleted), is behind the hateful tweets. “I’m certain [it’s the teacher]. Why would a student delete the account when someone else favourited it?” Favouriting a tweet indicates that a tweet has been seen and saved.
She also points to how far back the offensive tweets date from. “We’ve been told that a student back in January first noticed the tweets, but chose not to say anything. More recently, students have begun taking screenshots.”
Perhaps one of the most derogatory tweets came in reference to one the teacher allegedly posted after a ninth-grade student began wearing a hijab (Islamic head covering) earlier this year: ‘I get sad when girls I teach decide to wear a hijab. I feel like a failure.’
“In the response,” Aidid added, “the girl was mentioned by name. The post reads: ‘Sara*, did you just now decide to cover your shame?’”
“If the allegations against this teacher are found true, they represent a serious breach of trust by someone in a position of authority. We welcome the decision by the York Region District School Board to launch an investigation immediately.” – Ihsaan Gardee, National Council of Canadian Muslims
As a recent high school graduate from nearby Thornhill, Aidid says she feels surprised and saddened by the incident. “I’m surprised … I think people don’t realize the Internet is the real world. When you post something people will always find it … on the teacher’s part this is really reckless. It’s concerning to me that a person like that is teaching our children.”
She’s also disappointed with the way the YRDSB has approached the matter so far. “It’s plain wrong,” she says. “This school is not a safe learning environment and students can’t trust their teachers. The board needs to take these allegations more seriously.”
“I haven’t even received a response from all the e-mails I sent [to school board officials],” she adds. “I understand this stuff is handled internally, but even an acknowledgement that you received my e-mail would have been nice.”
‘Blown Out of Proportion’
Ihsaan Gardee, the executive director of the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM), echoed Aidid’s sentiments in a statement on Friday.
“Anti-Muslim sentiment and speech are offensive and hurtful,” Gardee said. “If the allegations against this teacher are found true, they represent a serious breach of trust by someone in a position of authority. We welcome the decision by the York Region District School Board to launch an investigation immediately.”
He added that the NCCM has reached out to school officials at the board to offer its support in the way of diversity training.
“Beside admitting to being racist, his tweets were opinions … nothing hateful about them.” – Twitter user
The National Post, the only major Canadian news outlet to run the story as of Friday afternoon, received a flood of responses via Twitter in support for the accused teacher.
“I support that teacher … Religious indoctrination is sad and pathetic,” one reader tweeted.
“Beside admitting to being racist, his tweets were opinions … nothing hateful about them. This is being blown out of proportion,” another said.
New Canadian Media chose not to disclose the teacher’s name out of courtesy for the pending investigation.
*Editor’s Note: This person’s name has been changed.