The Peel District School Board was criticized at its May 22nd school board meeting for not doing enough to address racism affecting black students. Peter Joshua, the board’s Director of Education was also called out directly by Kola Iluyomade, a parent rep on the We Rise Together Advisory committee for offering $10,000 to the committee as a response to their critical feedback on the lack of resources being allocated to the initiative. Mr Iluyomade says that they didn’t ask for the money. Parents instead are asking for staffing, resources, training and marketing initiatives to get the We Rise Together program off the ground.
The Peel school board launched ‘We Rise Together’ in 2017 to address recent studies and findings that shows black male students feel excluded and unfairly treated in school resulting in lower achievement and success.
Watch our interview Trustee Suzanne Nurse and Instructional Resource Teacher Phiona Lloyd-Henry:
The Action Plan for ‘We Rise Together’ calls for mandatory bias and anti-racism training for teachers and other staff, changes throughout the curriculum to integrate the history and experiences of black Canadians, and mentoring programs to boost student involvement and leadership to support black male students to achieve an equitable outcome.
At a community consultation in December 2017, Trustee Suzanne Nurse says she heard loud and clear that “the Black community does not have faith in public education” and that trust needed to be established between the board and the Black community. Parents that attended the school board’s regular meeting on May 22nd were very vocal that trust was still a major concern and identified a number of issues and incidents that Black students and parents face everyday.
In one incident in May, a special needs student was told to throw their snack into the garbage, only to have the snack removed from the garbage and sent home with the student the next day. Another parent was recently informed that her 13 year old son was “failing his classes” with marks as low as “18% but bumped up to 45%.” The parent was surprised as her son had achieved above average results on EQAO testing and was believed to be university bound. The parent relayed a story about her own friend that took his life in university because “he was tired of being feared, he was tired of how he was treated in the classroom.” She wonders “is this how it begins” for her own son.
In another incident over the weekend, a supply teacher is being investigated by the school board for an Instagram posting mocking a young student in the board…
Hi @PeelSchools, please be informed that a grade school teacher with your district is 1) openly mocking her students’ appearance and posting photos of them on social media 2) tagging the location of the school on her Instagram, putting them in danger. pic.twitter.com/Y3JNwz8EIf
— Fool of a Took! (@giaper) June 2, 2018
The board is expected to report back on the status, milestones and achievements of the ‘We Rise Together’ initiative at the next school board meeting (Tuesday June 5). As well, it is expected that the Director of Education will also provide answers to school Trustees about the source of funding and the circumstances around the $10,000 that was offered to the advisory committee.