Here Is Why Many Peel Students Are Demanding Better Action Against Racism
In 2016, the Peel District School Board implemented We Rise Together, the board's strategic action plan to support Black students and board staff. The school board is now using feedback from Black students and the report to take better action against racism.
The Peel board enlisted York University Professor Dr. Carl E. James to work with board research staff to conduct multiple focus groups with Black Peel students.
The team put together the We Rise Together report.
They found out that Black students believe that the teachers' lack of attention to their needs, racial stereotyping and differential treatment by many of their non-Black teachers, not only fostered a schooling environment that made learning tough and challenging but also lowered their educational achievement.
Additionally, the study found that many of the elementary school and middle school students would either ignore the racial insults or inform their teachers about the incidents, while many of the high school students would go directly to their preferred teacher or to the school administrators.
Students at all grade levels were aggrieved by the inaction of teachers and administrators in addressing the anti-Black racism in their schools. In elementary and middle schools, students frequently complained that teachers and administrators were not doing enough to address their concerns. Students complaints were often met with denial or mere warning for the offending students. In contrast, high school students felt their teachers and school administrators would verbally commit to making changes but, in the end, little or no actions were taken.
“The report provides critical insights into Black students’ lived school experiences to help us better understand what other research studies tell us about their racialized lives. This report provides important context and will serve as an essential reference in analyzing and interpreting the board’s student census data once it’s available,” says Dr. James.
According to the Peel District School Board, the findings of the report are intended to inform how to support Black students.
“While Black students have expressed that they have seen some benefit from the board’s We Rise Together work, they continue to experience challenges and barriers. We know there is still much work to be done to ensure all students, including Black students, can truly rise. We will continue to be bold, courageous, and decisive, and remain committed to transparency and being accountable,” says Poleen Grewal, associate director of instructional and equity support services.
Dr. James’ recommends that the school board develops an Anti-Racism policy that will address anti-Black racism, partners with community agencies for the possible creation of a We Rise Together educator award to recognize staff invested in the work of anti-Black racism, engages Black families in a culturally responsive manner and creates a Black Student Association at Peel schools.
The board states that they have already implemented a system-wide system-wide We Rise Together
training and formed 36 new Black Student Advisory Councils in middle and high schools during the 2018/2019 school year.
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