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Old photos of ‘student slave auction’ at Chilliwack, B.C., school ignite outrage online

British Columbia

The Chilliwack School District has apologized after former students shared photos of events where teachers bid money on predominately white students to become their 'personal slaves.'

One of the photos shared shows a white student posing in front of an 'adopt a family' sign during one of the events.(Layla Mohammed/Submitted)

Former students of a Chilliwack middle school are dissatisfied with their former school district's response after photos of an event where teachers set up a mock slave auction for students caused a backlash on social media.

Layla Mohammed, 24, says she attended several of the events, known as "slave day" to students at the Rosedale Traditional Community School, during her time there between 2007 and early 2010.

She said the events were held every year to raise money for charities or school activities and involved teachers "bidding" on students to act as personal servants or slaves for a certain amount of time.

"The students who were slaves would stand on the stage and the teachers would auction and 'buy' them," said Mohammed, who went to the school for three years.

"They would take them and get them to do all sorts of things … they would get them to do their dirty work they didn't want to do. They would get them to do tricks and humiliate themselves for entertainment."

She said she remembers one teacher putting one student on a leash and collar in front of the school and being told to crawl on the floor.

A caption from a Rosedale yearbook from 2008 says 'obedient slaves carried books, wrestled … and committed outrageous stunts to please their masters and the crowd.'(Layla Mohammed/Submitted)

"Everyone was laughing … looking back at the memory, that was not OK at all," she said. "At that time, I was so young and I didn't understand what was going on.

The Chilliwack School District apologized for the events saying it takes responsibility and it '"needs to learn from its mistakes."

"That is wrong. And just as it is wrong today, it was wrong then," said interim school superintendent Rohan Arul-pragasam in a statement.

Amanda Keriliuk, a friend of Mohammed's, said she participated in one of the events as a student who was auctioned off.

Student feared social backlash

"I'm definitely disappointed in myself," she said. "We should have spoken up."

Keriliuk said the school was predominately made up of white students and faculty at the time she was there.

Mohammed, who is Black, said she didn't speak out about the event at the time because she feared a social backlash.

However, after seeing stories of past racial discrimination coming to light on social media, she put a call out to old classmates for photos of the slave day events.

She shared those on social media, which caused outrage over the school's decision to allow these sorts of events. The backlash led the Chilliwack School District to issue an apology Wednesday morning.

Layla Mohammed, pictured at an anti-racism protest in downtown Vancouver, attended Rosedale Middle School as one of a handful of people of colour in the entire school of a few hundred students.(Layla Mohammed)

Mohammed thinks the school district needs to do more. "I think it's a little bit superficial," she said.

Letter of apology

June 9, 2020 Statement from Interim Superintendent Rohan Arul-pragasam on Racism and Discrimination. <a href="https://t.co/GfVJ0r5pCt">pic.twitter.com/GfVJ0r5pCt</a>

&mdash;@ChilliwackSD33

"They need to incorporate the proper history of Indigenous and Black people in our country into their curriculum and they need to teach their students how to be actively anti-racist. That's what needs to be done."

Mohammed said the current principal of Rosedale reached out to her family to personally apologize and let them know the school has not held "slave day" events since she became principal.

A white student who participated in one of the events told CBC News she was disappointed in herself and the faculty at the time for not speaking up.(Layla Mohammed/Submitted)

With files from Eva Uguen-Csenge

Credit belongs to : www.cbc.ca

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