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threats & SCHOOL safety

Updated: Dec 7, 2018

People have asked why the video of the Lord Byng student's racist rant is no longer available in the article, "Speaking Up Against Racism & Hate Speech" (the quotes are still there). Safer Schools Together, a company working with the Vancouver School Board, stated, in an e-mail, that they acquired the copyright to the video and that they were not allowing Speak Up Youth Forums to use it. They said the boy was now receiving serious threats on his life and that this is now a “public safety issue”.

The information provided did not prove this company owned the copyright and it seems to fall under fair use (especially since the video used was altered, with his name edited out and a black bar covering his eyes); however, is it really worth fighting to keep up a racist, hate filled video? It was there to allow people to come to their own conclusion about whether or not they agreed with the school and school board's assessment that there was no threat to students. Comments were also made about it being “just a joke” or “just a mistake.” He wasn’t laughing in the video. He didn’t say the words by accident. He expressed how he wanted to line up and kill black people, took the time to record himself saying it and send it to friends. The video showed how he could be considered a threat.

There are black students at this school, their families and many others who did not agree with the school's assessment. We live in a time where racism, violence, mental health, school shootings, etc. are on the rise. We see crisis after crisis and with no sign of slowing down. We live in a time where more and more young people are gaining a reputation of being reckless, entitled and not being held accountable for their actions. It doesn’t help when we have a social climate of “don’t ruin his life over one mistake” rather than real accountability. Yet students and parents are supposed to accept a school saying “we’ve determined there’s no threat”, “we’ve dealt with the situation” and essentially, “just trust us.”

Who is making these determinations? Why is the video this boy made, saying he wants to kill black people, considered not to be a threat to the 6 black students in his school, but threats to him are considered a public safety issue? What are the determining factors? Shouldn’t one be if students feel threatened?

The school has said they are committed to providing a safe, caring, inclusive and welcoming environment for all students, but some students don’t feel that this is the case. Although the school is taking some positive steps with the lunch-time forum and assembly on black history, it won’t make them feel safe around the boy who said he wants to kill people like them. What will be done to ensure they feel safe?

For the white boy who posted the racist and threatening video, the school took action to remove what they determined was a threat to him, so he could feel safe and I’m sure he’s happy with those measures. The students effected by his video however; those still worried about their safety, might just give them an F for Effort.

If he's coming back to school after racist and threatening behaviour and even being protected, while the people he effected are left to worry about their safety, are they fully honouring their commitment? If they don't, these problems will only increase and get worse.

If we start accepting racist and threatening videos as commonplace behaviour or if we allow a "kids will be kids" mentality and a low bar for accountability; if we allow schools to fall short on their commitments, there are too many examples to list of what might happen.

So, what can we do? From what students and parents are saying, we have to make sure that policies allow for schools to protect personal information while providing enough information about a threat so that any potential victims feel safe. If those policies are in place, they need to be properly implemented. We need to make sure the process of determining a threat and taking action to remove it involves the people who actually feel threatened. Keeping people informed will go a long way in helping victims feel heard and enabling them to be able to make decisions so they can feel safe. We need real accountability and real reconciliation, if possible. These things take a lot of time and resources, so making sure schools and teachers have the support they need to be able to implement these things is key.

Some policies may be in place and some may need to be new initiatives. Here are some resources to help you learn about your rights, policy already in place and if there are any gaps, who to contact to create the changes you want to see. We have the right to be free from violence, discrimination, free speech that is free from threats or discrimination and more. Let's make sure that happens!

Lord Byng Secondary School:

Principal: Geoff Taylor: (contact for concerns and school resources)

Vancouver School Board:

Jessie Fogell: (contact for questions about school board & district info) Vancouver Superintendent: Suzanne Hoffman: Email:

Student support/ Safe and caring schools (Parent resource)

Vancouver School Board Trustee: (contact to provide information of an issue you have)

Chair: Janet Fraser

Human Rights Tribunal:

(Contact for Complaints. Must be filed within one year of an incident)

Guide to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms

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