Langley principal apologizes for blackface yearbook photo
VANCOUVER -- The principal of Langley Fine Arts School is apologizing after a photo of him in blackface in a school yearbook published 12 years ago recently began making the rounds on social media.
Jon Bonnar, who was vice-principal at the school at the time, released a statement saying the photo was taken at Halloween in 2007. Langley Fine Arts School includes elementary, middle school and high school students and is part of the Langley School District.
The picture shows Bonnar, who is white, wearing blackface alongside Balan Moorthy, who was principle of LFAS at the time.
In the photo Moorthy, who is Black, was wearing makeup that made him appear white.
Moorthy was recently hired as superintendent of the Fraser Cascades School District in the eastern Fraser Valley after several years as principal of Walnut Grove Secondary in Langley.
He could not immediately be reached for comment.
“This happened and it never should have. It was wrong. I understand how offensive it is to appear in blackface, and how it diminishes and demeans members of our black community,” Bonnar said in a statement.
“I am deeply sorry. I am human. I make mistakes and I am committed to unlearning and learning and being better.”
The superintendent of the Langley School District also released a statement.
“Our District expects individual accountability and responsibility. We also expect to learn from our mistakes, to grow, and to be better,” said Gord Stewart. “As a District, we take matters like this extremely seriously, and examine them in the context of our beliefs and values as a school district. The individual involved has taken full responsibility for his conduct and apologized for it.”
The superintendent said Moorthy and Bonnar had dressed up as each other for Halloween and spent the day together in the school.
“Regardless of the principal dressing up in whiteface, that is no excuse,” he said. “Dressing in whiteface does not carry the same history, emotion, and racist connotations as blackface.”
Stewart’s statement makes no mention about whether any disciplinary action has been or will be taken against Bonnar.
The statement also references social media posts that make other allegations about incidents in Langley schools but does not elaborate.
It says anyone with specific, first-hand information about experiences should contact the school district directly.