I am writing to you about inclusion and anti-oppression with a sense of frustration and outrage as we address another egregious incident of racism — anti-Black racism. The most recent incident took place at Parkdale CI on Friday where a staff member appeared in Blackface during the school day, ostensibly to mark the occasion of Halloween. Far from a fun and joyful celebration for students on this occasion, this disrespectful and highly offensive act brought pain and harm and served as a grim reminder of how much racism and oppression we have yet to defeat in the TDSB through both collective and individual actions.
On behalf of the TDSB, I want to apologize to the students, families and staff who were impacted at Parkdale CI, but also the larger TDSB family — particularly to those in the Black community — for the negative impact of this dehumanizing incident of anti-Black racism. I am proud of the students who came forward and reported the incident to the administration. It takes courage to take action. However, it is our responsibility as adults/educators to identify, intervene and stop anti-Black racism and all forms of racism and hate when it occurs in our schools. This incident should never have happened and such a misrepresentation of what is foundational to our system and school cultures should be inconceivable in our schools. The staff member in question is on home assignment pending the outcome of an investigation.
There has been considerable focus on building our individual and collective understanding of privilege and power, anti-racism and anti-oppression. We will — we must — continue to act in a manner that reflects the learning we have been engaging in and creates a safe environment where every student feels that they belong, especially those students who have traditionally and currently face discrimination. Before school started this year, all school-based staff took part in professional learning focusing on anti-racism and anti-discrimination. There are many staff who have integrated this and other equity-focused professional learning into their daily practice and work diligently to disrupt and dismantle oppression and discrimination and the ignorance and malice that underpin them.
Regrettably, incidents of racism and hate are still a reality for too many students, their families and staff. The TDSB has taken steps to ensure that these incidents are reported with the Reporting and Responding to Racism and Hate Incidents Involving or Impacting Students in Schools Procedure allowing us to respond swiftly and more transparently with our school communities.
As members of the TDSB community, we all have responsibility to interrupt and confront racism, discrimination and hate when we see or hear it. It is my commitment that as we focus on eradicating it at both the systemic and local school levels and that we will move toward more proactively educating about the roots of racism and hate.
The incident at Parkdale CI does not need to define us as an organization, but how we respond to it now and what we do moving forward will. We are privileged to serve the students in the TDSB who expect us to create a more informed, caring, respectful and just society, starting in our classrooms. This is not only my commitment as Director, but one I know the majority of staff share and are determined to enact daily. On the way to our transformation of our system to a truly anti racist TDSB, there will be times when we are all called upon to say with determination “no more and not here,” and show that we mean it in all words and actions.
Director of Education