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Una Momolu and her son Emmell appeared at a rally demanding an apology from school officials after her child was told to remove his durag. Photo from Facebook

Catholic school accused of racial profiling

By  Kyle Greenham, Canadian Catholic News
  • October 27, 2019

EDMONTON -- A dispute over a student’s head covering at an Edmonton Catholic school has led to an apology from the school division, but his mother remains unsatisfied and has rallied supporters to back her allegations of racism at the school.

Emmell Summerville, a Grade 6 student at Christ the King Elementary/Junior High School, was asked to remove his red durag on Sept. 12. His mother, Una Momolu, alleges that he was also accused of being involved in a gang, but the school division says the durag simply violated the school’s no-hat policy. However, a school resource officer apparently did warn him that the red durag is worn by members of a gang known to police.

“We want to start by recognizing and apologizing for the use of the word ‘gang’ with regards to this situation,” Edmonton Catholic Schools said in a statement Oct. 17, issued hours before Momulu and about 70 supporters rallied outside the division offices. “It was never our intent to suggest that the boy had any affiliation with a gang.”

Momolu said her son won’t attend classes at Christ the King unless she receives a direct apology from ECSD and the no-hat policy is relaxed to allow for durags. She also wants the division to rescind a decision to ban her from the school property, imposed after a heated meeting with the school principal earlier this month.

She believes the school staff don’t respect the cultural significance of a durag.

“The durag is a spiritual symbol of black culture,” Momulu said. “This is what slave women wore to have confidence in themselves. It has always been a spiritual part of us from then until now. A head garment is something we hold dear. They need to apologize for their dishonesty and the rules need to change,  because the durag is targeting a specific group of students. It’s just dark-skinned kids.”

Momolu also disputes ECSD’s statement about her “aggressive behaviour” at the meeting with the principal, and she called for the school division to release security video footage.

“I don’t trust them with my son’s care and I don’t trust the administration,” she  said.

ECSD said it stands behind both the no-hats policy and the decision to ban the mother. Momulu’s meeting with school officials allegedly became so heated that police were called to escort her off the property.

Momulu had released to media a 10-minute segment of a recording of that meeting, which the division said “does not capture the entire conversation that took place.”

In the Alberta Legislative Assembly, Education Minister Adriana LaGrange, herself a former Catholic school trustee, called for a full report into the incident.

“People feeling discriminated against based on their race is absolutely unacceptable,” she said during Question Period.

Emmell’s father is Catholic, but Momolu is considering enrolling her son in a public school.

(Grandin Media)

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