An extraordinarily racist letter — bearing the letterhead of a Toronto area high school — was distributed to students late last week in an apparent prank.
Richview Collegiate Institute, where Prime Minister Stephen Harper once attended, is now investigating how the letter was distributed and has alerted police.
But as soon as it was produced, the letter was quickly shared on social media sites as if it were legitimate.
On school letterhead, bearing the names of school officials, the letter to parents read as a safety advisory. In it, students were urged to take steps to better protect themselves from theft and violence. But in the final three sentences, it singled out “African American students,” calling them aggressive, urging students to avoid eye contact with them, and saying that a surcharge at the cafeteria would be levied against these students for their behaviour.
The date at the top of that letter is Feb. 7. It appears the letter was distributed mostly through Twitter.
On Feb. 8, the school sent an email to parents to alert them to the letter before it found its way into their hands.
“Friday afternoon, we were mostly dealing with the effects of the storm,” Principal Sam Miceli said, referring to the massive snow storm that swept through Eastern North America. “A colleague from another high school was informed by their students that they had received this very offensive tweet.”
From there it snowballed. Miceli quickly put together an email to all parents — approximately 1,000 students attend the high school — and initiated a phone campaign.
It doesn’t appear as if many of the letters actually made it to paper, though, but were mostly distributed through social media. Miceli said he had yet to see a physical copy of the letter, only the photo of it that was being shared online.
Richview Collegiate is now undertaking an internal investigation to discover the letter’s creators, in cooperation with the Toronto District School board. According to Miceli, Toronto Police will become involved if those investigation uncover anything that merits their involvement.
“With any incident like this, on a school level it’s usually by intervention of the kids themselves,” Miceli said. “The good Samaritans, which most of them are, eventually someone will come forward.”
On the school board level, computer experts are scanning the image, networks it was shared on and user accounts for information that could identify who posted it.
“I still don’t know if it’s someone from within the school. Hopefully something will come up,” Miceli said. “it’s obviously the work of a few unkind minds.”
Richview Collegiate is a high school of approximately 1,000 students in Toronto’s west end.