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Message from the Director of Education
Message from the Director of Education
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June 3, 2020
I would like to update you on our commitment to anti-Black racism. Regrettably, anti-Black racism exists in Canada and in our communities. We know that racist incidents also occur in our schools and how we address them is critical in our work to reduce them and address systemic barriers. Discrimination and oppression of racialized individuals has occurred for hundreds of years. I believe we are in an historic period where the world is uniting to say oppression will not be tolerated further.  York Region District School Board is raising its voice and reinforcing its commitment to equity in solidarity of this moment in time.

We are dedicated to achieving equitable outcomes for students and ensuring our classrooms and workplaces are safe and caring environments.  

We are developing an Anti-Black Racism Strategy alongside our Anti-Black Racism Steering Committee made up of students, families and Black community leaders.  In addition, we also seek guidance from the academic scholars who make up our Anti-Black Racism Advisory Committee.  Together, we will develop a monitoring and evaluation framework to measure our actions and intended outcomes.

We expect staff, students and community members to join in the commitment to eliminate anti-Black racism and all forms of hate.  To be clear, incidents of hate and anti-Black racism will not be tolerated in the York Region District School Board. 

Today, we became aware of videos that portrayed students engaging in actions of anti-Black racism. These videos, while not recent, were brought to our attention through a student. We thank this student for having the courage to recognize and report anti-Black racism and we ask that students continue to identify and report racist incidents. The videos are extremely hurtful and upsetting and an important reminder of why we undertake efforts to educate and stand against anti-Black racism. 

From our preliminary review, one of these students in the videos is a YRDSB student. Upon learning of the incident, the Principal and Superintendent notified the community and outlined the steps the Board and school are taking. An investigation is underway to ascertain who uttered the anti-Black racist slurs. We have also reported this incident to York Regional Police. We encourage anyone with information to come forward through the anonymous online reporting tool, or by contacting your school principal. We expect our students and staff members to report any racist incidents they may witness. It is important that we address each incident and address it properly. If you witness an incident of anti-Black racism or any acts of hate, please report it to a trusted adult from your school, the school’s superintendent, or if you wish, through our anonymous online Report It tool. It is an expectation that all staff report incidents of hate to their supervisor for appropriate follow up.

Any reported incidents will be taken seriously, investigated and appropriate discipline will be applied. 

Perhaps more importantly, we will also address situations with the school community. We have a protocol that requires us to notify the community and our community partners that support students and their families. We will also put in place support for those directly affected and specific programs to educate the school community on the effects of anti-Black racism and how to combat it. Support and resources for staff, students and families are an important element of our Strategy. Our Inclusive School and Community Services department is developing protocols and resources to address incidents of anti-Black racism that will be posted to our public website and be readily available to our community. 

In addition to investigating this incident, the school will work with its Anti-Black Racism Leadership Team to reinforce its plan of actions to address anti-Black racism. This will become a part of its ongoing work that was highlighted earlier this school year, when the entire staff engaged in professional learning about anti-Black racism and how it affects students, staff and the school community. As well, the school will work in collaboration with the Board’s Inclusive School and Community Services team to support the students and staff who were directly affected by this incident and to further educate students and staff around issues of equity and inclusivity.

We have communicated this incident to the school community and I have expressed my disappointment that one of our students would be involved in such a hateful incident. I know the broader community shares this disappointment. We stand in solidarity with the Black community and know that we have much work to do to address inequities, oppression and systemic barriers specific to anti-Black racism. Anyone who is concerned about their child’s well-being is encouraged to contact their school so that we can arrange for appropriate and identity specific support to be provided in addition to the school-based supports that are available. 

I ask that each of us move to action.  Further your knowledge of history, oppression and colonization. Develop the skills and confidence to talk about racial identities and ensure your conversations and actions let people know they matter and belong.  Engage in upstanding actions if you witness racist behaviour.  We will support your personal learning journey with the support you need.  Let us work together to build the society in which our children will thrive.



Sincerely,

Louise Sirisko
Director of Education
 
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