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School board responds to anti-Semitic incident at Manitoulin high school

It is alleged that a group of boys goose-stepped through school’s halls, played Nazi Germany-era anthem 
Manitoulin-SS-1024x683
Manitoulin Secondary School. (Supplied)

The Rainbow District School Board has responded to a social media post alleging that an anti-Semitic incident took place at Manitoulin Secondary School on Oct. 22.

An Instagram user who said they are a student at the Manitoulin Island school posted an account of the incident, saying they felt compelled to do so because “as a student, I feel uncomfortable, offended and ashamed of the actions of my peers.”

“During second period, there was a group of boys goose-stepping through the halls and playing the Nazi national anthem,” said the student, who said they are of Jewish heritage.

“As far as I know, there was an intervention from a teacher and from admin, but I wanted to make sure that the students and community of MSS are aware of what’s happened.

“I think that keeping it quiet or not spreading awareness misses an opportunity to educate and hopefully prevent future occurrences.”

Sudbury.com reached out to the Rainbow District School Board to confirm the event had occurred and to see how the board responded to the incident if it had occurred.

A written response was provided by Bruce Bourget, Rainbow board director of education.

“We appreciate the opportunity to respond,” Bourget wrote in the statement. “We are aware of this incident and it is most concerning to us. We do not tolerate acts of racism in our schools.

“We also take the safety and well-being of all students and staff very seriously. After investigating this incident, it became clear that what occurred was not based on hate, but based on a lack of understanding of anti-Semitism and the depth of the atrocities that were committed against Jewish people.

“Having said that, ignorance is never an excuse. These actions were unacceptable. The matter has been dealt with and includes an educational component. We value safe, welcoming and inclusive environments for all.”

This incident is similar to another recent anti-Semitic incident at a school in Northern Ontario.

A video shot Sept. 14 at École secondaire catholique Algonquin in North Bay shows 14 Grade 7 and 8 students marching on the school's athletic field while giving the Nazi salute and chanting, "F*ck the Jews!" and "Heil Hitler.”

In a letter to members of its school communities, Conseil scolaire catholique Franco-Nord said the North Bay incident was the result of the group of students accepting "a challenge that was circulating on TikTok. The challenge was to promote hate and the public display of it on school grounds."

The board wrote, "We are heartbroken by what has happened and will not tolerate such behaviour in school. We are committed to increasing dialogue and knowledge in our classrooms and to supporting our students on their journey.

"Welcoming others and empathy are the foundation of our educational system, and such events and choices are the source of many challenges in society today. This group of students will also be asked to make a restorative gesture just as public as their previous actions. They must acknowledge their lack of discernment, digital citizenship, and the extent to which they have harmed the well-being of community members in the region and even the country."

– Sudbury.com