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Peel District School Board apologizes for anti-Semitic secondary school project after community outrage

Stephen Lewis Secondary School (SLSS) has cancelled a school project after concerns of anti-Semitism were raised by the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA).

Stephen Lewis Secondary School (SLSS) has cancelled a school project after concerns of anti-Semitism were raised by the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA).

On Friday April 12th, CIJA circulated an image of a banner at Stephen Lewis SS which suggested that Palestinian prisoners were being used for “human testing” and organ harvesting. Commentators and activists likened the message to an anti-Semitic “blood libel”.

The banner was one part of the anti-Semitic campaign that took place both within the school and on social media.

“We are shocked and outraged. If true, this is one of the most serious and vicious examples of antisemitism in a Canadian public school CIJA has seen,” stated CIJA.

Shortly after the banner was brought to the public’s attention, the Peel District School Board issued a statement on social media suggesting that the board was investigating the project.

“Board staff are aware & investigating, & are actively reviewing the class project to ensure it aligns with the board’s Safe Schools, and Equity & Inclusion policies,” read the statement by the Peel District School Board Twitter account.

Several days later, the district’s Director of Education, Peter Joshua, issued an apology for the incident.

“We acknowledge and take full responsibility for the profound, negative impact these materials have caused to many members of the community, including our students, their families, staff and the broader Jewish community,” said Joshua. “I would like to offer a formal apology to all of those exposed to these hurtful materials. There is no place in our schools for hatred of any kind and we are committed to doing better.​”

According to Joshua, the campaign was conducted by a 12th grade Equity and Social Justice: From Theory to Practice class and has been stopped. The statement also alleges that neither the teacher nor the students were aware of the falsehoods propagated by the project.

“Although the intent was to advocate for the protection of human rights, this project discriminated against members of the Jewish community by perpetuating antisemitism,” said Joshua.

In a step to make amends the district has removed all mention of the campaign from social media and has torn down any material in the school related to the project. The school board is also pursuing necessary disciplinary action for those responsible in the affair.

CIJA has also confirmed in a recent update that they have spoken to school officials and will be conducting a staff training program to prevent similar incidents from ever happening again.

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