(BlackburnNews.com file photo)(BlackburnNews.com file photo)

Windsor teacher recorded scolding Muslim students over Pride Flag raising absences

A teacher at a Windsor public school has been caught on tape telling students she was "disgusted" some Muslim students were absent for the school's Pride Flag raising last month.

During a 15-minute recording, which was obtained by the website True North, the teacher is heard asking students how many had come to school the day before for the flag raising before saying, "We as a staff at Northwood were incredibly hurt by the statement you made yesterday."

The recording and a letter from the principal, Dustin O'Neil, were published by Elie Cantin-Nantel and True North on Twitter.

The unnamed teacher continues, "You need to understand how hurt and disappointed we are by your actions and take that home to your parents because they're the ones who made you stay home."

"It was an incredible show of hatred," the teacher tells the class. "It was hatred towards a community of people, and it was incredibly disgusting to have witnessed. I do not want to be a part of this school."

The teacher then tells the class, "The whole staff feels the same way. The board of education feels the exact same way."

Some students in the class object to the teacher's characterization of the incident and are heard defending their religion and their parents' choice to keep them home.

A female student says, "Yesterday, we weren't trying to disrespect you."

"You might believe that," the teacher responds. "But what came across was an incredible amount of disrespect. Okay? That may not have been your intention, but that's what it was."

"That's when you as students, as kids, need to start teaching your parents," she continued after another student objected.

A letter from the principal, dated June 20 and also obtained by True North, was sent home to parents following the incident.

"I want to emphasize that the views expressed do not reflect the values of acceptance, inclusion, and belonging that make Northwood such an incredible school and community," wrote O'Neil. "We are deeply sorry for any harm that has occurred as a result of these comments."

The letter said O'Neil planned to personally visit with each of the impacted students and offer an apology.

WindsorNewsToday.ca reached out to the school board. Spokesperson Madeline McEachern provided an email response.

"The GECDSB was made aware of this incident as soon as it occurred in early June 2023," read the statement. "Board and Northwood administration immediately addressed all staff, students, and community members who were affected to ensure their well-being at that time. The principal has spoken directly with the students involved and distributed the letter to the entire Northwood community. As stated in the letter, diversity and a sense of belonging enrich students’ learning experiences, and we are committed to ensuring that all students and families are represented positively in our schools. We cannot comment on personnel matters relating to any staff member, but this incident is being addressed internally."

Widad Mezahi, communications coordinator with the Windsor Islamic Association, also provided a statement to WindsorNewsToday.ca.

"As a community organization, the WIA believes in fostering healthy and constructive dialogue to address and navigate important matters," read the statement. "We are pleased to share that representatives from the WIA have had a constructive meeting with the school principal and superintendent. We are happy to report that the school and the board have taken steps to address some of the concerns brought forward by the parents and students. We trust that the school board will continue to work diligently to address the remaining concerns. Our commitment to encouraging diversity and inclusivity remains unwavering. We firmly believe that the strength of our community lies in embracing the diverse perspectives and backgrounds that enrich our society."

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