Anti-Black Racism in Education

Over this past year, The Peel District School Board has undergone a review specifically looking at systemic discrimination against our Black students and staff. The review clearly displays that anti-Black racism exists in the Peel District School Board and that there will need to be outcome driven action taken to reduce disproportionately and disparity in the board in many areas. In the report, data was shared that  would be helpful for all educators, administrators and school boards to review as they self reflect on their role in perpetuating anti-Black racism in their class and school board. After I read the review, some questions that I am reflecting upon are:

Student Discipline

Are Black students being suspended at a disproportionate rate?

In Peel, the answer is yes. “Black students are only 10.2% of the secondary school population, but approximately 22.5% of students receiving suspensions.”

How often is the OTH-Other code being used in suspensions?

For those like me, that didn’t know the codes for suspensions as set out by the Ministry of Education, they are:

 

You will notice at the bottom of the list that there is a code OTH-other. In Peel, this code was used “approximately 78% of the time in secondary suspensions and 40% of the time elementary suspensions”. These are problematic statistics that provoke questions about reasons that students are being suspended.

What board wide or school wide de-escalation protocols are implemented to reduce the number of suspensions?

In the report, there is clearly no board wide strategy that has been implemented to reduce suspensions. One school’s de-escalation strategy that was outlined was to remove oneself from the situation and ask “What is the type of incident? What are the assumptions being made about the student and student’s behaviour? And after walking through the version of events from the teacher’s perspective and student’s perspective, what makes sense?” This simple protocol reduced suspensions in this particular family of schools. Does your school have a process in place that is consistently implemented? Is it communicated well to all staff so that they know how to follow it? Does your board have a de-escalation process in place?

What steps have been taken to reduce implicit bias in staff at your school or in your board?

“Research supports the view that the increased rates of suspension may be the result of implicit biases amongst PDSB faculty who, participants (in the review) told us, viewed Black youths as prone to misbehaviour.”

Pathways and programming Choices

As an intermediate educator, guidance counselor and administrator, are you empowering Black youth and parents to ensure that students are appropriately streamed into high school so that the students can reach their full potential?

Many anecdotal examples were given in the report to indicate concerns about streaming Black students. One Math teacher stated: Do parents and students understand that it may be “better to receive a 60% in academic math than a 90% in applied math because the student’s options for future educational pathways are greater with academic credits”?

Are Black students disproportionately streamed into applied and locally developed courses?

In Peel the answer is yes. “In grade 9 and 10, Black students make up approximately 10.1% of the student population” but they are represented in the courses as follows: “in academic 7.7%, in applied 21.7% and in locally developed credit courses 25.4%.

Are black students disproportionately represented in specialized or regional programs?

Remembering that in Peel, the Black student population is about 10%, this is the representation in our specialized programs:

Curriculum

Does your school or board, embed Black history throughout the entire school year or wait until February?

This was consistently raised as an issue in the report and concerns about content knowledge among teachers was deemed to be part of the problem.

Is the primary focus of Black History taught in your school or classroom American?

I have personally sat through a lot of Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks presentations in my teaching career and the review confirmed my experiences.

Are achievements of Black Canadians visibly highlighted in the school?

The examples outlined in the report indicates that this is not happening in schools consistently across the board.

Discriminatory Comments and Conduct

Is it policy in your board and school, that both the parents of the child who made the discriminatory comment and the parents of the child who had comments made against them are informed of the incident?

Examples of only the child who made the comment’s family being contacted were presented in the review. The family of the child who had discriminatory comments made against them were often never contacted.

What protocol do you have to address micro-aggressions in your classroom and school?

How do you address the n-word in your classroom and school?

In the review, students shared that the n-word was used often in their classrooms by students and that they often experienced inaction on the part of their teachers.

So I’ve read the Review, now what?

In light of this review and the events of recent months that clearly indicate profound systemic problems in relation to anti-Black racism in Canada, many educators are pushing themselves to be better. A better teacher, A better administrator, A better Canadian, A better colleague, A better friend. They are reading incessantly about white privilege, policing Black bodies, white supremacy and white fragility which is a great start to being self reflective.

To build on this reading, the Kojo Institute’s fall education series might be just be what you are looking for. In the fall, Kike Ojo-Thompson will be leading a three-part session about moving beyond awareness to strategic action that will aim to produce more equitable outcomes for Black students and educators.  The link for registration is here .

 

My local has worked with Kike Ojo-Thompson to develop a strategic plan going forward. I look forward to sharing my learning throughout this process as we begin to implement action in our local and in our board. I hope to report by this time next year, how we addressed some of the questions listed above and I am sure that as we go deeper, I will have a whole list of new questions.

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The Author

Tammy Axt

I am a teacher of students with special needs in the Peel District School Board. This is my second year in the role and I am in the middle of a steep learning curve! I am loving every minute of this new experience with my amazing and awesome students.

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