‘Out of control’: Calgary students walk out of class, demand anti-racism training for staff

CALGARY — Dozens of students walked out the doors of Bishop McNally High School to protest another utterance of a racial slur by a purported educator at the Calgary Catholic School District (CCSD) that was revealed online.

It comes about a week after the principal of St. Michael School in southwest Calgary was recorded saying the N-word to a group of Black students in a discussion about the problematic use of the word. The students received suspensions for sharing the recording.

Students at the Thursday morning protest say they are outraged by another video, purportedly of a female teacher, responding to a question about what a type of candy was called years ago. She responded by saying “N-word babies.”

CTV News has obtained the video which has also been circulated on social media, but has not verified the woman is indeed a teacher with the CCSD. However, it does appear the video was not recorded recently.

“This is out of control, it’s outrageous, a white teacher said the N-word here. That’s not acceptable. We have to change that,” said 16-year-old student McArthur Hilton, who participated in Thursday’s demonstration.

“It’s important to walk out today because that’s all we can do. We can’t do a lot in this world we are youth, 16, 17 years old, we are in high school, we just have to fight for our rights every day. And to be honest if things aren’t changing here we are going to do the same thing every day until something changes.”

He is calling for a meeting between students and teachers to help create boundaries for the words and acts of racial discrimination that can cause harm to Black students.

“Racism does exist but they don’t try to teach us that. They just tell us it exists. But they don’t teach the history,” said 15-year-old Vuyo Msimanga.

Another student at the protest says the lack of Black teachers and staff within the district is adding to the apparent inequity.

“After so many years of oppression, abuse and torture towards Black people, after being treated like being less or as a second or lower secondary to white people – maybe this time we can finally speak out and finally do something and have our own voices and have people recognize as for who we are, successful talented people,” said Grade 11 student Audrey Micah.

The executive director of the Sankofa Arts and Music Foundation was also present at the rally and says the staff who have repeated racist terms should be fired.

Marion Ashton is also calling for the district to address failures within the system.

“To be in the position as an educator and to use that word to our children, it’s not OK. It’s not OK. So we need some clear standards to be set around the use of language in our schools.”

Students of St. Francis High School held a simultaneous walkout in support of the same issues.

A statement from chief superintendent Bryan Szumlas was sent to CTV News Thursday and says the board has recognized the rallies occurring at its schools.

“We are aware of the student demonstrations that took place across Calgary today. We hear the voices of our students concerning this important matter.

“There is work to be done in our district on systemic racism. In consultation with stakeholders, we will work on professional development for all our staff and on information for our families. Each and every one of us has a role to play in the fight against racism.”

Principal Lianne Anderson of St. Michael School received no reprimand after a conversation with district officials to never let the incident happen again.

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