The Toronto District School Board is investigating staff member Javier Dávila, after he commented on social media that a Jewish advocacy group’s post was racist and threatened student safety.
The video of a pro-Palestinian student walkout, posted Nov. 10 by the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), alleged that students at Marc Garneau Collegiate chanted “Judah, Judah, you can’t hide.”
Dávila, who works as a student equity program advisor, offered this social media reply:
“Intentionally distorting words of TDSB studentclearly saying ‘Trudeau, Trudeau, you can’t hide,’ a chant said at every solidarity protest across Canada, & falsely calling them antisemitic & hateful is blatant anti-Palestinian racism & threatens student safety. SHAME ON YOU!”
In another posting Nov. 13, Dávila said he had been “suspended” and was being investigated by the TDSB after “calling out” CIJA for “fabricating lies.” He also criticized the TDSB for “not publicly standing up for its students who received threats.”
The post containing the video was later deleted without comment by CIJA, which Dávila’s online supporters criticized.
In a statement, the TDSB confirmed that Dávila is not at work while an investigation is underway.
“The staff member is currently on home assignment—with pay—pending the outcome of an investigation,” said TDSB spokesperson Ryan Bird.
“To be clear, home assignment is not a disciplinary action, but an administrative process to facilitate an investigation.
“For privacy reasons, we cannot provide specific details, however it is worth noting that the staff member’s online comments about the reasons for the home assignment are incorrect.”
When asked about the investigation, Dávila replied in an email to The CJN: “I can’t comment out of fear of reprisal.”
This is the fourth time Dávila has been investigated by the TDSB in connection with expressions of pro-Palestine activism.
A previous incident, which occurred during the last major Israeli conflict in Gaza in May 2021, concerned educational materials about Israel/Palestine that Dávila distributed on an opt-in mailing list for educators.
The materials included a link to the website of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and resources about Leila Khaled who was involved in plane hijackings.
After an “extensive” investigation, Davila was returned to his duties and was not formally disciplined, TDSB spokesperson Ryan Bird confirmed to The CJN at the time.
Davila’s resources were not vetted prior to distribution, Bird acknowledged.
“Had they been, they would not have been approved given the potential impact on students, staff and families in our school communities.”
Dávila is suing B’nai Brith and its CEO, Michael Mostyn, for defamation. He has also opened two separate Ontario Human Rights complaints against the TDSB.
In an interview with The CJN, Jaime Kirzner-Roberts, GTA director for CIJA, said they had received the video from, a student who was present at the walkout.
“The video was sent by a student in attendance who has remained adamant what they heard was ‘Judah, Judah,’” said Kirzner-Roberts.
“Unfortunately, the video clarity led some to disagree with what was being chanted. While we stand by the student, we removed the video.”
CIJA had previously written in an email to media that they had verified the video, and affirmed this again in the interview.
“We looked carefully at the video. We spoke with the student at length. We had no reason then and we have no reason now to question the student’s credibility or authenticity of their motive in coming to us.”
However, Kirzner-Roberts says a second student contacted CIJA over the weekend.
“The student told me that they also were physically there and had a different interpretation of the chant. They believe that the students were saying ‘Trudeau’ and not ‘Judah.’
“The student was adamant about this point. I circled back to student number one with this claim. Student number one was equally adamant that the students were saying, ‘Judah.’
“This left us with a he said/she said situation,” said Kirzner-Roberts.
“I believe that both students were being truthful… that they both heard different things. But what was said? Because we could not know that for certain, out of an abundance of caution, we took the video down.”
Kirzner-Roberts says CIJA did not communicate with TDSB before Dávila posted on Nov. 13 that he was under investigation.
She notes that the video included blurred faces to protect the identities of minors, “so nobody in the video could be possibly recognized or identified in any way.”
Referring to past concerns around anti-Israel rhetoric and details like the inclusion of the PFLP website in the educational materials Dávila shared, Kirzner-Roberts says the TDSB employee has engaged in a pattern of similar behaviour.
“For years, [Dávila] has been making Jewish families feel unsafe. Not just sharing ugly, hateful, content on his social media feeds, but actually doing this in school. This is a person who shared resources, as a so-called equity inclusion expert, with other teachers, [which] included links to terrorist information provided by a terrorist website.”
About the deleted video and the impacts of this moment on Jewish students in Toronto, Kirzner-Roberts says it’s important to keep the issue in perspective.
“I can see why people think it matters whether, what whether they said, Judah or not, because this is a hateful ethnic slur. That being said… [that] happened in the context of ongoing protests, which have left Jewish students feeling targeted, intimidated, exposed and vulnerable, protests which have included overt antisemitic chants, where hate incidents are proliferating in our schools targeting Jewish students… a context where many Jewish families are concluding that public schools are not safe any longer for Jewish students.
“So I think it’s important for us not to get too lost in the debate over one word and to keep our perspective on the broader point, which goes to the motivation of why we shared [the video] in the first place.
“Regardless of what words they were saying, just imagine yourself being a Jewish student standing there and hearing the hatefulness that was on display there.”