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Message from the Director of Education
Message from the Director of Education

May 17, 2019

A video of this message​ is also available on the Board’s YouTube channel. 

This is a message to our students, families, community members and staff about a very important issue.

We know there are concerns that students in our communities are experiencing anti-black racism and, sadly, we’re seeing some of this hate in our schools as well. This is unacceptable. As a community, and as leaders in the community, we all have a shared responsibility to do more and better for the sake of our youth. This is a call to action for us and the communities we serve - being a bystander is not an option.

At York Region District School Board, we will not tolerate any form of hate or racism. We are committed to responding to and supporting students and families who experience hurtful and hateful acts. Over the last two years, we have been putting in place the infrastructure to support students in these cases. And now, more than ever, there is a need to highlight and make these structures clearly available to students, their families and our staff.

Student and families, if you are experiencing any form of discrimination in your school or community, we want to be sure we are supporting you. Speak to your teacher or trusted caring adult in your school. Help is available. We have staff members in our Inclusive School and Community Services team trained to support students who have been victims of hate or discrimination. In addition, this team also has strategies to work with the whole school community to reduce and prevent future occurrences of hate.

We know that communication is sometimes a challenge and reports of racism are not escalated.  We need to make sure our communication is strengthened and our monitoring of our students is strong.  Today, I’m announcing that we’re making this process easier and more accessible to all families. We’re going to launch an online reporting system available on all school sites and the Board website. The reporting tool will be similar to our bullying reporting tool, but specific for incidents of hate or discrimination. Through this tool, we can make certain that supports and appropriate processes are made available to students and their families. This will also assist in our ongoing tracking of such incidents.

I know that in some cases, families want to resolve concerns they feel are beyond the school level. Over the last two years, I want to remind families that we implemented an in-house, arms-length Human Rights Commissioner’s Office (HRCO). The option to outreach to the HRCO is always available to students and parents. Contact information for the HRCO is available on our website.

In addition to the launch of the reporting tool, I am announcing that in the 2019-2020 academic school year, we will be dedicating a full PA Day for training in addressing hate, with a focus on anti-black racism. All staff members in our Board will receive specialized training in this area to improve how we, as a system recognize, address and reduce such incidents in our schools and communities.

I continue to meet with community agency leaders with specific experience, knowledge and resources in dealing with marginalized communities and anti-black racism. I will be asking these leaders to join us in forming a task force with ongoing dialogue on the issues facing our youth and how we can resolve them together.

YRDSB staff members, colleagues, we have a duty to protect our students from harm, and to ensure they feel safe, welcome and respected in our classrooms and learning spaces. If a student reports an incident of hate or discrimination, bullying or name calling to you, tell your supervisor. Reassure and support the student. Connect with their family. We need to ensure there are appropriate consequences for the perpetrators. But, these are our youth, we also have a responsibility to help them understand the implications of their actions.  

For all staff, students and community members - if you witness an act of discrimination, hear a racial slur or inappropriate joke, interrupt the behaviour. These microaggressions and inappropriate behaviours all contribute to an environment where our students do not feel safe or valued.  It is incumbent upon us to take action. Name the behaviour for what it is - anti-black racism, Islamophobia, homophobia, antisemitism. Teach in the moment, and again, reassure the student who has been victimized and ensure that you tell your supervisor. Resources on how to deal with these aggressions are available on our Board website for all to access.

I wish that I was able to erase all forms of violence and hate from our society.  I don’t have such power. What I am able to do is to continue to have a clear focus on championing equity and inclusivity in every single school in our region.  

YRDSB is dedicated to creating classrooms where all students experience success; they feel excited to learn and that who they are is celebrated.  This is our shared responsibility and I am thankful for your partnership with us and your dedication to this vision.


Sincerely,

Louise Sirisko   
Director of Education 
​​​​​​​

About Loui​se Sirisko

 
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