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Confronting Racism and Discrimination in the TDSB

A Message from John Malloy, Director of Education

Monday, May 08, 2017
Categories: Great Things, Happenings @ TDSB, - Uncategorized -

Recently, there have been a number of reports that speak to a larger issue in the Toronto District School Board – one of equity and access for our students.

These reports have asked tough questions about the opportunities – or lack of them – our students have. Based on our very own research, these reports showed that black students are expelled more often, that black students and/or those with learning needs are more likely to take Applied courses over Academic ones, and that white students make up the majority of specialized arts programs.

Our research also tells us that Indigenous students have lower graduation rates and students who identify as LGBTQ face issues around mental health and well-being. Combined with that, we also see the impact wider societal issues, such as Islamophobia and anti-Semitism, have on our school communities and on student success.

I have said many times that as a school board we are not afraid of this data and we will not run from it. We need to deal with racism and discrimination in all of its forms and using the data we have to make real change and improvement.

We have always supported students through small scale initiatives that addressed equity and access in a particular school or area but it is simply not enough. That's why we created a bold, coordinated approach – the Integrated Equity Framework – to address equity as system-wide, organizational priority. The complex and comprehensive work to achieve this has started and while transformational change takes time, this is urgent work for our Board.

The success of each and every student is our priority. For every student, we need to have high expectations; the right resources and supports; a positive, respectful, inclusive and welcoming environment; and a school culture that celebrates all identities.

So, to start, we asked all of our staff – whether it's an education assistant, school administrator, teacher, caretaker or support staff – to challenge their own thinking about bias and how they view their students and interact with them. This gets to the root of where change happens: inside schools and classrooms. These conversations will be supported by anti-oppression/anti-racism training and we will be working with our education partners including unions, on developing a strategy to support it because we believe it is the foundation of this work.

System change will help support this. To name a few positive developments from this year: we are updating our Equity Policy that we'll use to adjust our initiatives and work moving forward. We are building knowledge of Human Rights throughout the system and building capacity of our leaders to help them better support their teams. We are talking directly with students to ask how to improve our secondary programs and what they need to be engaged. We are reviewing how we support and communicate with students and families with special education needs. While this may not sound like a lot, it's critically important that we have a solid foundation to build from or significant change simply wouldn’t be possible.

This work is being done in collaboration with our students, staff, parents and communities. The Enhancing Equity Task Force, Black Student Achievement Advisory Committee, Aboriginal Community Advisory Committee and Equity Policy Advisory Committee are among several key groups that are actively supporting this work, providing recommendations and ensuring that students have access to the supports and programs they need to ensure their academic success and well-being.

Improving achievement and well-being for each student in TDSB is very important work. This improvement will only happen when we challenge our bias, remove all barriers, and understand our power and privilege in relationship to our colleagues, our students and their families. We understand that providing effective and engaging instruction for each student is required for our students' success; however, in TDSB, we realize that our students' learning is impacted by the attitudes and beliefs we possess as educators, which influence our decisions and shape our culture. We have a long way to go, but we believe we are headed in the right direction.

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