By Neil Armstrong
PRIDE Contributing Writer
TORONTO, Ontario — Ontario’s Minister of Education, Liz Sandals, says, educators play a critical role in building and sustaining a positive school climate and there is absolutely no place for discrimination or harassment in the school system.
She was responding to a report commissioned by the Ontario Alliance of Black School Educators (ONABSE) — Voices of Ontario Black Educators: An Experiential Report — released at the organization’s first annual conference held at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto on May 29.
The report found that systemic anti-Black racism is still entrenched in the education system and that this not only hampers the hiring of Black teachers, it also retains significant barriers in the promotion and advancement of Black teachers, and has very serious repercussions within the classrooms.
Conducted by Turner Consulting Group Inc., the report calls on the provincial government to enact employment equity legislation in an effort to combat this persistent problem that is not only affecting teachers but students as well.
“Our government believes a safe, inclusive and accepting learning environment is essential for our students’ success and well-being. It is important to us that all students, parents, teachers and members of the community feel welcomed, safe, and respected within their school community.”
Minister Sandals says the Ministry of Education continues to support school boards in addressing bullying and victimization through prevention, intervention and supports.
“The Education Act requires all school boards to provide safe, inclusive, and accepting learning environments (regardless of sex, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, gender expression, race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, age, marital status, family status or disability),” she said.
Among the report’s findings is that while racialized people represent 26% of Ontario’s population, they make up only 10% of the province’s 70,520 secondary school teachers, and 9% of the 117,905 elementary and kindergarten teachers.
The reports ends with policy implications for Ontario’s public education system such as, that “the government of Ontario should require all Ontario school boards to address racial disparities in employment through employment equity programs that would include a comprehensive review of human resource policies and practice (both formal and informal), the collection and analysis of employment data (disaggregated by racial sub-groups), and the establishment of qualitative and quantitative goals to address any racial disparities and identified issues.”
It indicates that there is a need for each school board “to create and implement Workplace Discrimination and Harassment Prevention Programs. Such programs would play a role in reducing the experiences of discrimination and harassment and also to ensure that any issues that do arise are appropriately investigated and addressed.”
A key finding from the research is that all teachers and education staff should receive training to increase their ability to effectively educate Black students. “This includes increasing staff understanding and awareness of racism, racialization, and racial profiling and how they affect the success of Black students.”
The report calls for changed staffing models, noting the connection of Black educators to the academic success of Black students. “Therefore, it is critical that school boards not only increase the number of Black educators within the system as a whole, but specifically in schools with a significant number of Black students.”
It also notes that, “the redaction of African Canadians from the curriculum and classrooms continues to be a concern for both Black educators and students,” and that “school boards can do more to help Black parents understand the Ontario public education system and support their children’s education.”
The Ontario Alliance of Black School Educators promotes and facilitates the education of all students, African Canadian students in particular.
It also aims to identify and develop African Canadian professionals who will assume leadership positions in education and to influence public policy concerning the education of African Canadian people.