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HWDSB Votes on Trustee Sanctions Following Breaches of Code of Conduct

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HWDSB Votes on Trustee Sanctions Following Breaches of Code of Conduct

Hamilton, Ontario – March 5, 2021: During a special meeting that began during the evening of March 4, Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB) trustees discussed the code of conduct complaints as a result of the third-party investigation report.

HWDSB Board Chair Dawn Danko shared the following statement:

“Tonight, the HWDSB Board of Trustees met to proceed with expedited Code of Conduct process to determine potential sanctions for individual Trustees based on the specific allegations made against them.

We know this process has been lengthy and frustrating for many in our community, and for that we apologize. The investigator’s report clearly details that we failed to create a supportive and accepting environment for Ahona Mehdi. On behalf of the Board, we want to once again apologize to her. We can, and must, do better. This starts with holding ourselves accountable, both as a Board and as individuals. In accordance with the Education Act, the Board has decided on sanctions. 

HWDSB must invest in immediate and long-term efforts to address and eliminate systemic and anti-Black racism in our schools, workplace, and community at large. The investigative report expert recommendations, which we have already begun implementing, offer the opportunity to change the trajectory of this Board, to build a culture of inclusion, and to ensure the active dismantling of systemic racism and bias so that no student or staff is ever made to feel the way Ahona Mehdi did.”

The following sanctions are based on HWDSB’s expedited review into breaches of the Code of Conduct by individual trustees. This review took place after the independent investigation’s final report and recommendations based on a Student Trustee complaint of breach of the Board’s Code of Conduct. All sanctions imposed on individual Trustees are in accordance with Ontario’s Education Act.

  1. For those complaints raised against Trustees Kathy Archer and Becky Buck, the Board of Trustees found that there was no breaches of the Trustee Code of Conduct and no sanctions were required.
  1. For complaints raised against Trustee Alex Johnstone, the Board of Trustees found that there were two technical breaches made that were inadvertent and made in error of judgement, but in good faith and do not require sanctions.
  1. The Board finds that in regards to allegations made where Trustee Alex Johnstone failed to stop alleged racist comments made during the June 22, 2020 Board meeting, the Board recommends that this is a breach of the code of conduct, specifically to:

Maintaining the integrity and dignity of office

  1. Trustees, as elected officials of the Board, must uphold the dignity of the office and conduct themselves in a professional manner, especially when attending Board events, or while on Board property and shall at all times act with decorum and be respectful of other Trustees, staff, students and the public.
  • additional responsibilities of Chair of the Board

Civil behaviour

  1. No Trustee shall engage in conduct during meetings of the Board or committees of the Board, and at all other times that would discredit or compromise the integrity of the Board.
  • meeting management and comments addressed at a meeting

The Board also finds that that in regards to allegations made where Trustee Alex Johnstone prevented a motion from being tabled at the June 22, 2020 Board meeting, the Board recommends that this is a breach of the code of conduct, specifically to:

Maintaining the integrity and dignity of office

  1. Trustees, as elected officials of the Board, must uphold the dignity of the office and conduct themselves in a professional manner, especially when attending Board events, or while on Board property and shall at all times act with decorum and be respectful of other Trustees, staff, students and the public.

Upholding decisions

  1. Trustees shall comply with the Board’s policies, procedures, bylaws, and the Board’s procedural bylaws.
  • the right of a student trustee to bring forward a notice of motion

Based on the above breaches, the following sanctions are recommended:

  1. Issue a formal letter of Censure of the trustee as an official reprimand
  2. Requesting a formal apology
  3. Requiring the trustee to do additional training on equity, governance and anti-racism training
  4. Barring the trustee from holding any position of Chair on any committees until Initial Board in December 2021.

4. For complaints raised against Trustee Carole Paikin Miller, the Board finds the following: In regards to allegations where Trustee Paikin Miller made anti-Muslim remarks to other trustees, the Board recommends that this is a breach of the code of conduct. Specifically:

Maintaining the integrity and dignity of office

  1. Trustees, as elected officials of the Board, must uphold the dignity of the office and conduct themselves in a professional manner, especially when attending Board events, or while on Board property and shall at all times act with decorum and be respectful of other Trustees, staff, students and the public.

Upholding decisions

  1. Trustees shall comply with the Board’s policies, procedures, bylaws, and the Board’s procedural bylaws – specifically in complying with Board Policies (including Equity and Inclusion Policy).

In regards to the allegation that Trustee Carole Paikin Miller displayed a poor attitude during Human Rights and Equity Advisory Committee meetings, the Board recommends that this is a breach of the code of conduct. Specifically:

Maintaining the integrity and dignity of office

  1. Trustees, as elected officials of the Board, must uphold the dignity of the office and conduct themselves in a professional manner, especially when attending Board events, or while on Board property and shall at all times act with decorum and be respectful of other Trustees, staff, students and the public.

Civil behaviour

  1. No Trustee shall engage in conduct during meetings of the Board or committees of the Board, and at all other times that would discredit or compromise the integrity of the Board

In regards to the allegation that Trustee Carole Paikin Miller made comments to the effect that all lives matter, the board recommends that this is a breach of the code of conduct. Specifically:

Maintaining the integrity and dignity of office

  1. Trustees, as elected officials of the Board, must uphold the dignity of the office and conduct themselves in a professional manner, especially when attending Board events, or while on Board property and shall at all times act with decorum and be respectful of other Trustees, staff, students and the public.

Civil behaviour

  1. No Trustee shall engage in conduct during meetings of the Board or committees of the Board, and at all other times that would discredit or compromise the integrity of the Board.

Based on the above breaches, the following sanctions are recommended:

  1. Issue a formal letter of Censure of the trustee as an official reprimand
  2. Requesting a formal apology
  3. Requiring the trustee to do additional training on equity, governance and anti-racism training
  4. Barring the trustee from sitting on all committees of the board until the Initial Board December 2021 as long as the required training is completed.
  5. The Board recommends that the trustee resigns so that the Board can uphold the integrity and dignity of the office.

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Media Contact:

Shawn McKillop, APR

Manager, Communications and Community Engagement

Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board

905.515.6227, smckillo@hwdsb.on.ca

Updated on Friday, March 05, 2021.
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