Ontario taking action to address racism and inequity in schools
In a July 9 conference, the Ontario government announced bold new changes to the education system that will help break down barriers for Black, Indigenous and racialized students and provide all students with an equal opportunity to succeed.
Ontario will move forward with ending Grade 9 streaming into applied and academic courses, proposing to eliminate discretionary suspensions for students and strengthening sanctions for teachers who engage in behaviour of a racist nature.
Additionally, it will provide teachers with additional anti-racism and anti-discrimination training, as part of this action.
Today’s (July 9) announcement was provided by Premier Doug Ford, Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education, and Jamil Jivani, Ontario’s Advocate for Community Opportunities.
“To help our young people reach their full potential, we have to start earlier to create equal opportunity for them, whether that’s reforming suspensions for primary grades or ending the practice of streaming for Grade 9 students,” said Premier Ford.
“Above all, our government will not tolerate racism, anti-Semitism, homophobia, Islamophobia or hate in any form in our schools. Through these initiatives to promote equality in education, we will ensure students from all walks of life are set up for lifelong success.”
The government is proposing to eliminate discretionary suspensions for students from kindergarten up to Grade 3, beginning September 2020, through Bill 197, COVID-19 Economic Recovery Act, 2020.
Serious offences will still be subject to mandatory suspensions.
The latest suspension data from 2018-19 shows that more than 65,000 students, both elementary and secondary, were suspended during that school year in Ontario.
Beginning in September 2021, the government will start the process of ending Grade 9 streaming into applied and academic courses.
Students currently enrolled in applied-level courses have multiple negative outcomes and limited opportunities for post-secondary advancement.
“Every student -- irrespective of the colour of their skin, faith, heritage, and orientation -- deserves every opportunity to succeed in the classroom,” said Minister Lecce.
“The transformational change we are driving forward will embolden a generation of students and unleash their full potential, absent the systemic barriers that hold them back. To racialized students in Ontario: we see you, and we value you. We will stand with all students on this journey to advance respect, dignity, and opportunity.”
The government of Ontario will also introduce a new foundational Grade 9 math course for September 2021 and will work with school boards as they transition students into a de-streamed Grade 9 math program, as part of its plan to end early streaming.
This is the first step towards further de-streaming in other curriculum areas, which will better support all students in having every opportunity to pursue the path of their choice after secondary school.
“We must recognize that today’s changes are the result of our government and community members working together,” said Jamil Jivani, Ontario’s Advocate for Community Opportunities.
“In particular, parents in Ontario’s Black communities have been a powerful voice for change, providing their unique insights in how suspensions and streaming have disadvantaged black students. Thank you to every parent and community leader who engaged with us in this process.”
The government will also be strengthening sanctions for teachers who engage in behaviour of a racist nature, to ensure students feel accepted in a discrimination-free classroom.
Over the last 23 years, the Ontario College of Teachers reports that there have been 32 instances of teacher discipline for racist or homophobic remarks or behaviour.
Additionally, the Ministry of Education has proposed additional anti-racism and anti-discrimination training before the end of the year.
The government of Ontario is currently consulting with teachers’ federations, education workers’ unions, and trustees’ associations on the implementation of this critical initiative.
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