Teacher Who Came to School in Blackface Forced to Wash to 'Not Cause Further Harm'

A teacher in Toronto has been placed on home assignment after showing up to class wearing blackface as part of a Halloween costume on Friday.

The teacher, who has not been identified, was told to wash his face to "not cause further harm" after several students reported the costume to school administrators, Parkdale Collegiate Institute Principal Julie Ardell wrote in a letter to families that was sent to Newsweek.

"Caricatures of peoples' race or culture are not appropriate and are offensive and hurtful. Regardless of whether this was intended or not, it was racist and dehumanizing," Ardell wrote in the letter.

Blackface is when white people darken the color of their skin to resemble the skin color of Black people. It is widely considered to be offensive, and others have previously been criticized for it.

Ardell said "it is clear we must do more" to address anti-Black racism in schools following the incident. The school has filed a report with the Toronto District School Board, and the teacher has since been placed on home assignment pending the outcome of the investigation.

She praised students for doing "the right thing" by alerting administrators about the incident.

One student, Otis Stang, said the costume made him feel uncomfortable. He said that students asked what his costume was and the teacher then became defensive, saying it "looked cool," CTV reported.

"The whole class was shocked and confused," Stang told CTV.

His mother, Liz Ikiriko, told CTV the incident was "devastating" because it was only students who "stood up and said something."

"As things kind of sunk in through the afternoon and evening I realized that there were other instructors, there were other teachers who saw him and who were interacting with him throughout the day before he was asked to take the makeup off," she said.

A petition has since been created urging the school district to do more to address racism, noting that the incident was "traumatizing" to students who were in the classroom. The petition also said it is unfair that students had the responsibility to document and alert administrators about the incident.

"This is not a one-time incident," the petition read. "As parents, many of us have witnessed overt and micro racial aggressions toward our children. This incident, however, is severe, shocking and concerning."

Parents for Black Children, an advocacy group, told CTV the incident is "an overt manifestation of the racial violence Black students are subjected to."

"Our kids are expected to go to school and thrive while maneuvering racism among peers, in their textbooks and curriculum and from their teachers. It is trauma and abuse. Clear consequences are needed for instances of anti-Black racism. There must be accountability when racism is exhibited and our children are harmed," the group said in a statement to CTV.

Halloween Pumpkins
A teacher in Toronto allegedly showed up to school in blackface for a Halloween costume. Here, pumpkins are seen in New Hampshire. Erik Freeland/CORBIS SABA/Corbis via Getty Images