Toronto school asks police to investigate after it was targeted by racist prank

Michelle McQuigge, The Canadian Press

TORONTO - A Toronto high school has requested help from the city's police force to get to the bottom of a racially motivated prank that's provoked outrage in the country's online community.

Richview Collegiate Institute, alma mater of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, filed a complaint with the Toronto Police Service days after a letter accusing black students of a spate of robberies began circulating online.

The text, which appeared on school letterhead but contained several spelling and grammatical errors, purported to offer students a series of tips to help curb a spike in fights and thefts in school hallways.

After cautioning against leaving personal belongings unattended, the letter switches gears by making bald racial slurs and announcing discriminatory policies.

"In the halls avoid eye contact with African American students. They have a higher chance of becoming aggressive when confronted," the letter states. "Due to their aggressiveness African American students will be made to pay an extra fee of $1.50 per purchase in the cafeteria."

Richview principal Sam Miceli, who described the letter as "vulgar and disgusting," said members of the school community did not take the message at face value for a moment. Outlandish contents aside, he said official communications have not been distributed on school letterhead for months.

Still, he said officials launched investigations within the west-end high school and quickly enlisted school board information technology personnel in an effort to trace the source of the prank communique.

On Tuesday, Miceli said he also filed a report with city police.

"I'm not a lawyer, ... I don't know if it's mischief, criminal harassment, a hate crime, but whoever's responsible ... may have crossed a legal line," Miceli said in a telephone interview.

Toronto police did not respond to requests for comment.

Miceli said the bulk of Richview's ethnically diverse student body was inclined to dismiss the note when it began circulating last week, but social media ensured the document soon became notorious.

Images of the text began circulating on Twitter, earning reactions ranging from derision to contempt.

"That is just not right. Inconsiderate, racist & horrifying," one Twitter user wrote.

Miceli said he's confident tips from students will help unearth the prankster, adding he can't be sure the incident originated within the school.

Richview's halls have been abuzz since the letter went viral, he said, but most students want to see it laid to rest.

Miceli said the incident is not a reflection of the school or the nearly 1,000 teens who attend it.

"I'd love to have my own kids here, it's that lovely a place. ... There've been no robberies, there are no racial issues."