Teachers’ union calls on Peel District School Board to address anti-Black racism in Mississauga schools

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Just days after the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) demanded that the chair and director of education at the Peel District School Board (PDSB) resign amid concerns that the board isn't doing enough to address systemic racism and anti-black racism, the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario (ETFO) is calling on the board to fully address anti-Black racism within its systems and practices.

"It is time for the [PDSB] to fully support Black students, parents, employees and communities by implementing the Ministry of Education's directives following a review that documented anti-Black racism and discrimination in Peel schools and workplaces," the ETFO, a union that represents 83,000 elementary public school teachers, occasional teachers and education professionals across Ontario, said in a statement. 

The ongoing controversies at the board are connected to a damning report on racism in schools and at the board level. 

The March 2020 report contains myriad examples of how racism disproportionately impacts Black students, pointing out that Black students are suspended more frequently than students of other ethnic backgrounds. The report also found that school administrators are more likely to involve the police in incidents involving Black students, even when the incidents are not criminal in nature. 

Another recently-released report, written by lawyer Arlene Huggins, suggested that the PDSB has been unable to adequately confront anti-Black racism at the board level and in schools in Brampton, Mississauga and Caledon due to dysfunction at the board level. 

The ETFO says that Black students have faced racially-charged name-calling, more disciplinary measures than their white peers and have been disproportionately streamed into non-academic courses of study. The union also says that Black teachers have reportedly faced fear of reprisal for reporting anti-Black racism and microaggressions.

To help address the issue, the Peel ETFO Local hired the Kojo Institute for six weeks of anti-Black racism training and strategic planning, created an Equity Officer portfolio to focus on equity issues in all aspects of its operations, has convened a meeting with its Black members to share planning, and met with all board union groups to take joint action and issue a statement in response to the Ministry's review. 

The local recently accepted an invitation to sit on seven board committees related to racism.

"As we are seeing with other institutions such as law enforcement, anti-Black and other forms of racism do not just emanate from personal bias. Oppression of Black communities and racialized groups is embedded in systems, policies and practices," ETFO said in a statement.

"That is why paying lip-service to these issues is not enough. Only real structural change and an authentic commitment to dismantle racism and white supremacy in every aspect of an organization will provide the equity and social justice that is the moral and legal right of every youth and adult."

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