Mother sues Hamilton school board after 4-year-old daughter loses part of her finger at school

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Published March 29, 2023 at 1:44 pm

A mother and former Hamilton resident is planning to take the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB) to court after an incident at a Hamilton school severely injured her daughter.

Sjanita-Marie Harrison said a student slammed a door on the hand of her daughter, then four-year-old Autymn-Rose, in November of 2022.

The incident happened at Prince of Wales Elementary School.

After her daughter’s right ring finger was crushed, Harrison says her daughter was then placed into an ambulance — unaccompanied by any school personnel — and taken to a hospital to have her finger partially amputated.

Harrison says her daughter had also hit her head and was in obvious distress.

“Throughout this entire process of my child being in this condition, I was left in the dark. Things just don’t add up,” Harrison said during a news conference on Tuesday (March 28), where she called out the board for their handling of the situation.

When she asked for an incident report, she said it took several days to arrive and was vague or inaccurate in some places.

Harrison is now suing the board for damages, stating that the incident is another example of discrimination and neglect towards Black students at Hamilton schools.

She insists that the situation would’ve played out differently had her daughter not been Black.

“My daughter now has a disability for the rest of her life because of your failures,” Harrison said to the board. “The mistreatment of students at Prince of Wales Elementary School seems to be a clear pattern.”

She and her family previously lived in Hamilton but have since moved due to the emotional toll the incident has taken on them.

Multiple other instances of alleged discrimination against Black students and disabled students in Ontario were brought up earlier during the conference, including an instance where a six-year-old child was locked inside a small, closet-sized room at a Toronto elementary school in January.

The full conference was posted on Twitter by the Disability Justice Network of Ontario, an organization dedicated to creating more accessibility and opportunities for disabled people in the province.

As of the time of publishing, inthehammer.com has reached out to the HWDSB for comment and is awaiting a response.

UPDATE:

The school board is conducting its own investigation into the incident and will work through the legal process, said Shawn McKillop, Manager of Communications for the HWDSB.

“There is an immediate response for care and support when any child is injured. We are sorry the injury took place and we wish the child well in her recovery,” McKillop said on Wednesday.

“We have taken very seriously how we as a system have created harm for some students and introduced Human Rights, Anti-Black racism policies as well as continued learning about anti-racist, anti-oppressive, and anti-colonial practices.”

More updates to come as this story develops.

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