The Peel District School Board is rapidly becoming ground zero for community groups to air their grievances for how students are treated and accommodated in the public school system. Today, Black Lives Matter Toronto (BLMTO) is putting a spotlight on the Peel Board and the treatment of Black students.
BLMTO is hosting a Teach-In and a Walk-Out in protest at Yorkwoods Library in Toronto until 4pm today. Included is a workshop for teachers on “confronting anti-Blackness in schools,” sessions for parents on “navigating suspensions and expulsions,” and self-advocacy sessions for parents to create safer spaces for Black students.
The group is reacting to “incidents and issues pivoting around anti-Blackness” in school boards, including the Peel District School Board.
The group says that the Teach-In is inspired by incidents that “are part of a larger context in which Black children in Ontario face routine and violent anti-Black racism in schools.” The group adds that incidents include “humiliating discipline, to suspension and expulsions, to placement in behavioural programs, to disengaging curriculum and pedagogy, to violent incidents at the hands of School Resource officers and other police officers inside schools.”
The list of demands of both the Peel District School Board and the Toronto School Board includes:
- Public apologies issues to children and families of children who have experienced abuse or violence from police officers on school property within the Toronto District School Board (TDSB), Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB) and Peel District School Board (PDSB).
- Divestment, defunding and immediate cessation of the Youth Education Officers Program in Peel, the School Resource Officer program in Toronto, and of the protocol of having police officers on duty in public schools, to ensure an environment safe from intimidation, harassment and violence.
- The implementation of anti-racist training to be mandated at all levels of the Peel District School Board, Toronto Catholic School Board and Toronto District School Board.
- The creation of community healing space for Black identified students in PDSB, TDSB, and TCDSB schools who have experienced anti-Black racist violence in the school board through harassment by staff and administration.
- Financial prioritization by the province of community-determined initiatives such to address high push-out rates of Black students within the school board.
- The Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development consult with the Transitional Year Program at the University of Toronto to create and implement a strategy to support Black students who have been pushed out of secondary school gain access to postsecondary education.
- Appropriate allocation of material and human resources to the Africentric Alternative School, the Leonard Braithwaithe Program at Winston Churchill Collegiate and the Africentric Program at Downsview Secondary School.
- The creation of representative district level advisory boards comprised of Black parents, Black students, Black community members, and Black community organizers. Without the approval of these advisory boards, no Black student in the Peel District School Board or Toronto District School Board should face suspensions, expulsions, or placement in a behavioural or Section 23 program.
- Adequate support (including financial support) of community-determined educational programs created to address the achievement gap for Black students in the PDSB/TDSB/TCDSB.
- Adequate support for community-determined educational programs prioritizing the emotional well-being of Black students, prioritizing programs with an intersectional lens addressing anti-Black racism in conjunction with colonialism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, xenophobia, and other systemic oppressions that contribute to the violence inflicted on Black communities.