Allies, friends, international supporters, 

We need your help. 

We are calling on all of you to lend your voice, pick up the phone, send an email and call the York Region District School Board about the recent racist actions of the Board of Trustees. 

Having trouble sending the email? Click here to download the text and emails to copy and paste.

The Background

As many of you are aware, the York Region District School Board made the decision (after months of advocacy from the Black community) to rename Vaughan Secondary School after it was discovered that Benjamin Vaughan, after whom the school was named, owned slaves.

Despite resistance on behalf of the YRDSB, community advocacy worked and the board finally agreed on a name change. It then underwent the process of requesting name submissions from the community.

The results of this process indicated overwhelming support (more than 42%) for renaming the school after Hodan Nalayeh, a Canadian-Somali journalist with a legacy of social activism who was killed in terror attack in 2019


What Went Wrong?

Since the results of this community consultation were released, YRDSB Trustee David Sherman has attempted to undermine this process by:


  • questioning the legitimacy of the votes for this name and suggesting there were “outsiders” who exerted undue influence on the process
  • going so far as to publicly post an email from ANCHOR (formerly VACA) on his personal Twitter account in an attempt to shame the organization for respectfully reaching out to him in an effort to explain why his words and actions are harmful to the Black community. 
  • now appearing to be ready to suggest and choose a name of his own choosing, without community consultation at all

It gets worse. 

In a trustee meeting on January 28, Trustee Dr. Elizabeth Sinclair raised concerns about how these actions by Trustee Sherman, as well as the entire process, were causing undue harm to the Black community (of which she is a member).

Board Chair Cynthia Cordova indicated that she “did not like [Trustee Sinclair’s] tone” when these concerns were raised, and a motion to complete the process and designate the new name of Vaughan Secondary School as Hodan Nalayeh Secondary School was not passed.


We Need to Fight Back

Despite the fact that changing the name of a school named after a slaveowner shouldn’t be this hard…

Despite the fact that it was primarily the Black community who was harmed by the original name…

Despite the overwhelming support for the name of Hodan Nalayeh Secondary School…

Despite outcry from Black community members (and even the only Black trustee in the YRDSB) about the harm this process is causing…

It is clear that the York Region District School Board, Director Louise Sirisko, the trustees Cynthia Cordova, David Sherman, and others have no plans to honour the votes of students, parents and community members.


We are asking ALL our allies to get active. We will not let this process continue. 


1.   We are asking ALL allies to send an email to the YRDSB supporting our concerns about the racist actions and behaviour of board trustees

2.   If you live in York Region, we are asking you to call your local trustee (click here to find your Trustee and their contact information) and tell them that we won’t sit by while the process is so blatantly disrespected. We demand that the school be renamed Hodan Nalayeh Secondary School.

3.   Stay informed. An election is coming up in 2022, where board trustees will be up for re-election across the province. Today it’s an issue with the YRDSB, but we know there are countless instances of racist trustees province-wide.

Toni Morrison once said that “the function of racism is distraction.”

That the Black community has had to fight THIS HARD for something as seemingly simple as finding a replacement for a racist school name continues to demonstrate that the YRDSB has no intent to meaningfully engage in the fight against anti-Black racism.

If you have followed us and done nothing in the past, we are asking you to act now. 

Parents of Black Children