School Board Dealing With Problems Of Anti-Semitism

While the dust is just settling from the heated meetings regarding masks at schools, the Ottawa Carleton District School Board Trustee at the centre of the mask debate now finds herself in the centre of another difficult situation.

Rookie trustee Dr. Nili Kaplan-Myrth, whose first action on the job was to introduce a motion to make masks mandatory for students at schools, has now been the target of anti-Semitic behaviours.

The school board addressed the situation on their website last week.

“The Ottawa-Carleton District School Board stands against antisemitism. We are aware of the vile, antisemitic statements and messages targeted at Trustee Nili Kaplan-Myrth. Many of these statements have included antisemitic slurs, epithets, threats of harm, aggression, and in some cases, illegal activity. This is unacceptable and inexcusable.

“Students and staff in our schools, and in the community, are experiencing a rise in antisemitic behavior. Hateful, aggressive or threatening actions or statements by any member of the OCDSB community will be investigated and disciplined.  Any evidence of hate crimes will be reported to local authorities.”

The situation is, unfortunately, not the only issue of anti-Semitism that the school board is dealing with.

Earlier this month, an incident that took place at Sir Robert Borden High School in Nepean is being investigated by the Ottawa Police.

According to an Ottawa Citizen story by Joann Laucius and Peter Hum, students who had stayed after school were called into a room with a swastika on the floor, and a student made a Nazi salute gesture.

Borden Principal Matthew Gagnier sent a letter to families after the incident.

“This is a blatant act of antisemitism, which is absolutely unacceptable,” said the letter. “Every student deserves the right to feel safe at school, regardless of religion/creed, race, background, ability, gender or sexual orientation.

“This incident is disturbing and comes at a time when we are seeing examples of antisemitism in our community, on social media and around the world. This affects our sense of safety. To the Sir Robert Borden community, know that we unequivocally condemn antisemitism and are here to support you.”

In an interview with the Barrhaven Independent in the fall, Rabbi Menachem Blum of the Ottawa Torah Centre said that, sadly, incidents of anti-Semitism in Barrhaven and throughout Ottawa have been on the rise. Jewish high school students are being targeted, and it is affecting their performance in school as well as their mental health and safety.

“It’s a situation that is under the radar for many people in the community,” he said. “But it is a growing problem, and it is a real concern.”

While the aforementioned issues involve the OCDSB, the Barrhaven Independent has also been contacted about anti-Semitic concerns at Ottawa Catholic School Board schools.

One of the more unsettling incidents happened in May at St. Francis Xavier High School in Riverside South, when an anti-Israeli march by the school’s Palestinian Club closed off part of Limebank Road. Students carried banners with messages that many saw as anti-Semitic, including one accusing Jews of killing babies.

“That was very disheartening to hear about when that rally took place,” Rabbi Blum said. “I did receive a number of calls about it. I was surprised, and people who called me were surprised that something like that would happen at a Catholic school.”