Submission to Reviewers (YRDSB Why Community Concern)

February 2, 2017

Review of York Region District School Board

The York Region Alliance of African Canadian Communities wish to thank the Review Panel for inviting us to share our perspective on issues with the York Region District School Board (YRDSB).
WE have been concerned with YRDSB’s commitment to equity in general, and specifically a lack of actions and or slow response to anti-Black racism incidents within the board.
Our confidence in the board has been eroded gradually over the past several years due to a number of instances, and examples, many of which have been documented and/or published are provided as follows:

1. Senior staff not understanding the demonstration of some subtle forms of racism in schools, such as, the offensive meaning of the display of Confederate flags to Blacks
2. The Board “put on indefinite hold” diversity staff training. Yet several senior Board members are perceived to lack understanding / training on Equity and diversity.

3. The Board ignored the concerns of parents and community when they met with the then director and senior staff in May 2014 (The Chair at that time concurred with the lack of action). The same concerns have now risen to crisis proportions.
We noted a recent similar situation, where on December 7, 2016, we met with, and provided the current Director and senior staff specific remedial recommendations, and there was an understanding that they would provide us with a response, which eventually was made on January 31, 2017, somewhat under duress.

4. The Board was consistently silent on incidents of blatant anti-black racism, and also that there was an absence of strong condemnation of incidents of racial and ethno-cultural harassment.
5. The Board ‘quietly’ disbanded the equity committee, which left the impression to many parents of racialized students, that Diversity is unimportant to the Province’s third largest public board.
6. The Superintendent with responsibility for equity issues was frequently uninformed or uninvolved in the handling of racism incidents leading to our impression that there was no real role or expectations in dealing with anti black racism issues.
7. The continued fear of staff to express their opinion or concerns on these matters. We are aware of at least two staff who have expressed their concerns publicly, which echoes the community concerns, and now await the ‘punishment’ with some trepidation.

We take the opportunity here to share with you the recommendations we offered to the Director and Senior staff as well as follow-up comments we provided the day after we met.

December 7, 2016
To: The Director, York Region District School Board

Following up on our meeting of September 19th 2016 and the issues leading up to the intervention by the Ontario Minster of Education.
Our community desires restored confidence in the York Region District School Board.
We propose the Implementation of the following recommendations, confident that it will set us on that path
1. Training
a. Establish and maintain Equity and Inclusivity training at all level, sequentially work from the most senior leadership including trustees down to frontline staff, on an ongoing basis.
b. Develop a compelling strategy for the participation of all schools and staff in the observance and understanding of Black History Month and other significant cultural learning opportunities.

2. Processes for Handling Racism
a. Develop a transparent process for addressing racist behaviours by staff including a restorative framework that is harmonious with victims and community expectations.
b. Develop a transparent process for addressing racist behaviors by students including the prompt engagement of related parents / caregivers.
c. The above processes should include mandatory reporting, and that the recording of, and the repository for data on all racist incidents by an office for equity , inclusivity and community services lead by the coordinating superintendent, who will be responsible for monitoring the processes, and ensuring strict adherence to the values and anti-racism policies of the board.

3. Policy advice and development
a. Reconstitute the Equity and Inclusivity Advisory Committee so that the Equity and Inclusivity Coordinating Superintendent chair it.
b. The development of a framework for determining the reasons for, and finding solutions to, the disproportionate level of students of color who are suspended or expelled.
c. The collection of data by race / ethnicity of expulsion, suspension, achievement, underachievement, and special program representation.
d. Strengthen the curriculum by finding ways that reflect the diversity of York Region students, including partnerships with ethnic communities on cultural education.
e. Maintain Constructive dialog with the African Canadian, Islamic, and other ethnic communities.
f. The implementation of an equitable hiring and promotion strategy / process including a leadership program to develop administrators that reflects the diversity of York Region.

We sincerely hope our recommendations (copy attached) will be given serious consideration, and that they will be reflected in action steps taken by the board to address identified concerns within the equity and inclusivity portfolio.
The YRAACC would like to reiterate the high importance of equity training, which is lacking, for all staff, and trustees, with an emphasis of leading by example. The resumption of the ‘Tina Lopes equity training’ that was “put on hold” could be a good place to start.

Regarding the discussion on transparency, we encourage you to be sensitive to the impact on victims of racism as you weigh the balance between privacy of the perpetrators, and the greater good. There is a need to find means to be responsive to the aggrieved parties, and your community constituents, while staying within the confines of the law.

We also wish to state that we agree with you that the collection of race – based data is not just a York Region, but also a Provincial best practise.
We are also convinced that the YRDSB has the option now to ‘lead the way’ in the absence of Ministry regulation, or framework. Precedence has shown that the Ministry do in fact look to the leaders, and the experienced, to be their advisors when they do consider such policy changes. YRDSB has an opportunity to be on the leading edge of this progressive step, and adjustments can be made to adapt to Provincial standards later if what is in place at YRDSB fall below any new minimum standards.

Respectfully submitted
Sincerely
Lee Miller
Chair
www.yorkregionaacc.ca email: info@yorkregion.ca

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