Justice for Emmell: Demand Apology from Edmonton Catholic Schools for Racial Profiling

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Emmell is an 11-year-old student who wore a durag to Christ the King school in Edmonton and was accused of having "gang affiliations." His mother, Una, met with the principal to request an apology. Instead of acknowledging the concerns of racial profiling, the principal put the school on lockdown, called the police, and banned Una from the school premises for one year.

1. Initial Incident

Following the meeting, the Edmonton Catholic School District (ECSD) released a statement saying that “the conversation and conduct of the mother quickly escalated and police were called.”

However, Una recorded the meeting with the principal. The audio recording contains no screaming or yelling. Instead, the principal can be heard repeating the assumption that durags represent gang activity.

After the audio was released to the media, ECSD released a second statement to revise their original story, saying that “the 10-minute recording released to the public, does not capture the entire conversation that took place. After the recording was turned off, the conduct of the mother quickly escalated and our surveillance shows her acting aggressively towards staff and the police when they arrived.”

Despite this claim, the school board refused to release any surveillance footage to provide evidence justifying the ban. ECSD also stated twice that “race had no bearing on this action being taken and was never part of the discussion.”

2. Request for an Apology

After facing considerable public pressure, the Assistant Superintendent of ECSD offered to meet with Una to discuss the removal of the ban and apologize to both Emmell and Una. It was agreed upon that members of the community would attend the meeting to ensure that Una was not manipulated behind closed doors and misrepresented again.

On the night before the scheduled meeting, the Assistant Superintendent gave Una an ultimatum that she would have to meet alone with him and another ECSD official.

Una requested they honour their original commitment to have community members as witnesses and as an unbiased third party. The Assistant Superintendent refused and insisted on meeting alone. As a result, the meeting was cancelled.

ECSD then issued a statement blaming Una for the cancellation saying, “we cannot move forward in a spirit of reconciliation without the consent of the mother to meet without representatives from the community.”

Summary: An 11-year-old boy was criminalized because of a piece of clothing. The mother was dismissed for standing up for her son. School officials refused to apologize and falsely accused his mother of being "threatening.” The school board continues to portray Una as “aggressive” and has insisted on keeping the ban in place.

3. What’s Happening Now

The school board still has refused to apologize to Emmell and Una. They continue to misrepresent the incident, even going as far as to send an email to parents at Christ the King school discrediting Una.

Petition Demands

  1. An apology by the Catholic School Board addressed to Emmell and Una.
  2. Removal of the ban at Christ the King school.
  3. A review of the school dress code.

How You Can Help

Sign the Petition. Your voice will help us get Emmell and Una the justice they deserve.

Share your story. Many victims of racism are silenced. If not for the recording of the meeting, Emmell and Una would be silenced too. If you've had a similar incident occur with the Edmonton Catholic School District, send us your story at justice4emmell@gmail.com. We will respect and protect your anonymity.

Volunteer. We have been organizing peaceful gatherings in Edmonton, Canada. Follow the Justice for Emmell Facebook page to hear about the next opportunity to get involved. Let’s stand together.

Thank you so much for reading and for being such a smart and compassionate community. Please share if you have other ideas for how to help.

Links

Article in The Guardian

Statements from the Catholic School Board and Christ the King school