Peel school board launches plan to support black male students
Strategy arises from report from youth who face exclusion, lower expectations, barriers based on race
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Ontario’s second-largest school board has launched an action plan to address the discrimination and low expectations that black male students say they face inside and outside their classrooms.
The move by the Peel District School Board is based on experiences reported by high school students in focus groups last spring, which included both successful and struggling pupils.
What the 87 black male youth cited was troubling. They described: non-black teachers and peers who didn’t expect them to succeed academically and expressed surprise if they got good marks; lower expectations for their careers; feeling left out by other students socially and on sports teams; being feared and subject to suspicion in hallways or when problem incidents occur; racist comments and jokes from peers.
In response, the Peel board’s action plan proposes several major steps. It calls for mandatory bias and anti-racism training for teachers and other staff, changes throughout the curriculum to integrate the history and experiences of black Canadians, and mentoring programs to boost student involvement and leadership. It will begin with widespread consultation with organizations including the United Way and black community groups later this fall.
The goal is to “identify, understand, minimize and eliminate the marginalization experienced by black males in Peel schools,” according to the plan, to be presented at a curriculum committee meeting this week.
A strategy to support this particular cohort is necessary because pressure from the community has been building, said Poleen Grewal, the board’s superintendent of curriculum and instruction support services.
“Equity isn’t about equality and doing the same thing for everybody,” she said. “It’s looking at the injustices and the marginalization and trying to equal the playing field. I think if we hadn’t done it, it would have been an injustice.”
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