Natasha Shakespeare had hoped her daughter could have a more normal classroom experience this fall. Their family had moved into a different neighborhood in the region in which they live, an area of southern Ontario located between Georgian Bay and Lake Simcoe, and there’d be a new school for their 13-year-old daughter.
The youngster had experienced ongoing anti-Black racism and bullying, including racial slurs lobbed at her and other Black children during recess, at her last elementary school. Shakespeare, who felt repeatedly brushed off when she had reported these incidents, filed a civil lawsuit in March against the Simcoe County District School Board in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice.
Shakespeare’s lawsuit seeks $200,000 in damages, plus legal costs. The board has yet to file a statement of defence.
Note contained threats, slurs
However, the fresh start the Barrie, Ont.-area mother had envisioned for her young teen hasn’t materialized.
“She got a note the first day of school [in September]. Someone had drawn a picture — hand-drawn a picture of a noose — and put it in her backpack,” Shakespeare said.
This progressed to other disturbing harassment of the Grade 8 student, including sloppily scrawled racial slurs, threats of rape and missives goading her to take her own life. Shakespeare’s daughter brought a note home three weeks ago, threatening rape.
Having experienced anti-Black racism herself while growing up in the same area, Shakespeare feels heartbroken that her daughter is suffering from the same 30 years later: targeted for abuse at schools because she’s Black and receiving inadequate support from school leaders in response.
The situation has sparked a wave of emotions for Shakespeare: shock, horror and fear to anger and fury.
When Shakespeare contacted school administrators about the series of disturbing notes left for her daughter this fall, she says she was told “it was investigated and they concluded that they couldn’t come up with anything.”