Feb. 25, 2022
TORONTO – For the third time this month, students at a Toronto public elementary school have performed the Hitler salute in class, this time targeting a Jewish teacher in a Grade 6 classroom.
The latest incident occurred Thursday at Pleasant Public School in North York, Ont. The victim, a substitute teacher who regularly works at the school, was approached in the classroom by two male students who performed the salute and kept their arms raised for a lengthy period despite the teacher’s request to stop.
“They knew exactly what they were doing,” the teacher told B’nai Brith. “I felt attacked. They kept their hands up for a long time. It was blatant and so obvious.”
The teacher said Pleasant Principal Brian Fong took swift action and summoned the two 12 year-old students to his office. He also questioned every student in the class about what happened.
This morning, Fong was immersed in meetings deciding disciplinary action, and according to sources, consulting with Toronto District School Board (TDSB) officials.
Last week, a similar outrage occurred at Valley Park Middle School, which is also part of the TDSB and describes itself as “Canada’s largest middle school.” On that occasion, three Grade 8 students surrounded a Jewish teacher, the daughter of Holocaust survivors, and performed the Hitler salute. Antisemitic graffiti was also found at the school.
Prior to that, on Feb. 1, two students at Charles H. Best Middle School performed a Hitler salute in front of classmates and depicted a swastika.
“We commend Principal Fong and staff at Pleasant Public School for acting swiftly in response to this horrifying incident,” said Michael Mostyn, Chief Executive Officer of B’nai Brith Canada. “That being said, it is clear that antisemitism is a systemic problem within TDSB schools, and it will take considerably more effort from government, Jewish groups and the TDSB itself to root out the phenomenon and ensure that Jewish teachers and students can feel safe in their schools.”
In December, the TDSB’s Integrity Commissioner recommended that the Board censure a Jewish trustee, Alexandra Lulka, for speaking out against antisemitism. A majority of trustees ultimately vindicated Lulka and rejected the Commissioner’s report, following a furious reaction from the Canadian Jewish community.
In March of last year, the TDSB published a Human Rights Report for 2018-2020, which found that “Incidents of Antisemitism have risen at an alarming rate” (page 4). Antisemitism was the second-highest source of hate activity within the TDSB in 2018-2019 and third-highest in 2019-2020 (page 38), despite Jewish students constituting a tiny minority of the overall population.