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Lawyers representing the parents demanded that TDSB officials either redo the final stage of the lottery process, or increase resources to allow excluded students to attend their chosen schools.Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail

A group of parents are threatening legal action against the Toronto District School Board over an alternative-school admission lottery the board has said accidentally excluded racialized and marginalized students.

In a letter sent to the TDSB on Wednesday, lawyers representing the parents demanded that school officials either redo the final stage of the lottery process or increase resources to allow students from those under-represented groups to attend their chosen schools.

If the board doesn’t take steps to address the situation, the parents plan to apply for a judicial review by next Wednesday. Their aim will be to quash the results of the last stage of the lottery, according to the letter, which was shared with The Globe and Mail.

The TDSB revealed last week that it had excluded a group of students from the lottery, which was for spaces in 17 coveted alternative elementary schools. More than 1,200 students applied for 458 seats. The alternative schools tend to have smaller student populations than mainstream elementary schools. They also have special focuses, including social justice, democratic education and entrepreneurship.

The board explained in an e-mail to families that it had prioritized applications from Indigenous students and siblings of current students for the next school year.

A computer system then separated out students from under-represented groups, including Black and Middle Eastern children, and those who identify as LGBTQ. The board offered a random selection of these children 25 per cent of the available spaces, in keeping with its mandate to make the schools reflect the overall student population.

But the applicants from this pool who didn’t receive spots in that round were somehow excluded from the lottery’s last stage, where the remaining spaces were handed out.

The board blamed a third-party vendor for not merging the two wait-lists.

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In a second e-mail to families on Friday, the TDSB apologized for the mistake. The board said it was analyzing the data, and, where possible, would allocate 89 available spaces to students who identified as under-represented.

TDSB spokesperson Ryan Bird said on Wednesday that the board was reviewing the letter from families. He added that the TDSB is looking to determine next steps in the application process, and “appropriate restorative measures.”

The letter was sent on behalf of parents whose children were excluded, as well as those whose children were offered spaces.

“Direct discrimination is the only way to describe what occurred at the third stage of the EAS lottery,” the letter said.

“Through its actions and failures to address the consequences of those actions, the TDSB has devalued these students and negatively impacted their self-worth … Students who were included in the lottery do not wish to be implicated or be seen as condoning the direct and systemic discrimination perpetrated by the TDSB.”

Yukimi Henry’s son was among the students excluded from the final stage of the lottery. She said the TDSB hasn’t provided any concrete information, forcing parents to pursue legal action.

“We’ve been offered no remedy,” Ms. Henry said.

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