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York school board offering support sessions for Jewish, Muslim families

In response to concerns of potential hate incidents amidst conflict in Israel, Palestine, York Region District School Board offering virtual counselling tonight, and Oct. 20
Oct. 18, 2023
Joseph Quigley

York Region District School Board is holding identity support sessions for Jewish and Muslim students in the wake of tragedy in Israel and Palestine.

The board announced that the virtual sessions with counsellors would begin Oct. 17, with a session for Jewish and Israeli students and families. That will be followed with two sessions on Oct. 20 for Muslim and then Palestinian families.

Director of education Bill Cober said the sessions were arranged in consultation with board mental health technicians, the Network of Educators for Jewish Learners and the Alliance of Educators for Muslim Students.

“We remain committed to ensuring schools are safe, welcoming and inclusive for all students and will not tolerate any act of hate,” Cober said in a news release.

The board released a statement Oct. 12 regarding concern from the community about the potential for rising Islamophobia and antisemitism in schools over the conflict and deaths in Israel and Palestine. The board recognizes that tragic global events could lead to Jewish, Muslim, Israeli and Palestinian students and families being more vulnerable to acts of hate.

The board said staff will continue to use protocols for addressing hate and discrimination incidents. Students and families can also report incidents of hate through the board’s anonymous online reporting tool.

The first session tonight is from 6 to 7 p.m., led by cognitive behaviour therapy counsellor Leanne Matlow, who has experience supporting the Jewish community in the GTA.

Two sessions will occur Oct. 20, with practitioners from Naseeha, which provides a peer support hotline. There will be a session for families of Muslim students at 5:30 p.m. and a session for families of Palestinian students at 7:30 p.m.

All sessions are free to attend for anyone in the YRDSB, done through MS Teams. Links to sign in are available on the YRDSB website.

The board also pointed out many resources available for families during this time, including counselling and peer support agencies.

“As always, if you have concerns about your child’s emotional well-being, please contact your child’s school so they may arrange support,” Cober said.