The Edmonton Catholic School Board has officially issued an apology for discrimination to a student and his mother, following months of public outcry.
The situation began in September of 2019, when Emmell, an 11-year-old Black student at Christ the King school in Edmonton, wore a durag to school, and was asked by his teacher to remove it because of its “gang affiliations.”
Following the incident, Emmell’s mother Una Momolu requested that the school board to address the “racism” and “discrimination” against her son, as well as remove a ban from the school that was placed against her in the months since the incident.
The police were also called on Una during an initial meeting with the principal about the incident at school, during which she was requesting an apology for the comments made about her son and his durag.
Following what was seen as a lack of accountability from the school, a public protest was held at a Catholic School Board Trustee meeting in November, to request that they address the issue. The meeting was instead called to a close.
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In another incident, an Edmonton-based writer and organizer named Bashir Mohamed, who had been helping Una spread word of her and her son’s experiences, was threatened with legal action prior to speaking about the ongoing matter with the school board.
In December, the school board announced they would be re-evaluating their headwear policy in response to the situation, but still did not issue a formal apology to Una for the incident.
Una was given the opportunity to meet with the senior staff from the school division on December 16, 2019, in a meeting that also included the Minister of Education and the Deputy Minister of Education.
In the meeting, the school board agreed to lift the ban placed on Una as well as conducting a review of school dress codes.
In response to their lack of sincere apology, Una issued a statement that an apology was needed to address “systemic racism” in schools.
“We want to make sure that this never happens to another Black, Indigenous, or racialized child in our schools again. A sincere apology would acknowledge that systemic racism exists in our school systems, and only from there can we prevent these incidents from happening in the future,” Una said a post to Facebook in December.
After nine months of organizing, and three months of in-person meetings, an update was provided in a post to Facebook, that the school board officially issued a formal apology.
“Discussing and resolving parent concerns is a priority for us; we believe that greater diligence in this regard, including more contact with Ms. Momolu, would have allowed for more openness and resolve, and for that, we sincerely apologize,” reads the apology.
“We will continue to review our dress code policy, and as part of that review, will commit to include further discussions as to the inclusion and acceptance of culturally significant garments including durags.”
The family considers the apology as a way to start the healing process after months of back and forth with the school board.
“From day one, all Una wanted was an apology for the discrimination Emmell faced. Unfortunately, the school board escalated the situation by banning her from her own son’s school and publishing numerous lies about the initial incident and mishandled follow-up,” reads the Facebook post.
“Despite the obvious gaslighting and continued discrimination, we only asked for a removal of the ban and a review of the policy, in addition to the original request for an apology.”
A GoFundMe page has since been created on behalf of Una and Emmell, to raise funds to send Emmell to therapy.
“Emmell has been through a lot, and we would like to put together a small fund to pay for therapy sessions when he is ready. Our goal is $2,000, which will cover eight-10 full sessions.”
The apology from the school board can be read in full below: