BY: KATHY MCDONALD
Over the last two weeks, just about every conference, parent or school meeting and presentation that I was involved with had as its main theme that education is key. I was particularly excited to be involved in the anti-racism directorates inaugural conference on Anti–Racism. They conducted an online poll and asked participants to choose what the most important issue is. Racism and education lead the polls by leaps and bounds. It was followed in the distance by justice then health and then child welfare.
It was very disappointing but not shocking to read the headlines in the paper that a teacher in Ontario is accused of making a racist statement. In my role of trustee, these are cases that I deal with far too often. Again, every time I bring to the forefront the negative behaviors of teachers I feel very strongly that it’s important to recognize that the vast majority of teachers take their duty to care for their students seriously. We must remember while school boards do their best to hire great teachers they invariably let a few undesirables in. This is where as parents we need to be vigilant. Far too often we don’t take action to make sure problems are rectified.
Recently, an angry parent called me about a comment an occasional teacher (substitute teacher) made. The teacher allegedly said to the student “You are not acting like a good Indian”. There have been other allegations like the teacher who announced to his class that a student was “dumb because he is Black” and my final example is a teacher threatening to come to school and “gun down” the students if they don’t behave. Please note that by recent I mean recent, within the last week and one case dating back one year. Parents need to start speaking up and holding their school boards accountable. I would never suggest going to the media first to solve an issue. I always encourage the parents to resolve the issue with their child’s school. As most schools value parents as indispensable partners that are working together for the same goal, letting your child be the best that they can be.
The key is accountability. Parents I can’t emphasize enough how a vital part of the accountability equation is you, the parent. Let your voice be heard. Learn how to effectively advocate for your child. Parents you must also prioritize your child’s education. Remember one of the greatest gifts a parent can give their child is that of time.
Anti-racism is gaining momentum across the province in all sectors and it is up to us to participate and ensure that the various initiatives across the province, across all sectors don’t fizzle out. All voices matter. Each of us from the Black and Caribbean community needs to ensure that all levels of government are held accountable. We should speak up about any form of discrimination. We all have different methods that we may choose to be engaged. The important thing is that we get engaged and remain engaged until all systemic biases that discriminate against students on race, abilities, creed, gender, or any other reason is permanently dismantled.
Now, we must remember that this work at times can seem daunting. I would encourage all parents to consult your child’s school board website to garner the relevant information needed to guide you through the process. If the information is not forthcoming call your child’s school, they are usually willing to resolve issues. If you still feel that you are not satisfied, then you could call your local trustee. They will help you resolve the issue and explain the policies and procedures and the reasoning behind them. There will be times that you make feel frustrated and resigned to give up. I would encourage you to persevere to the end.
Any form of advocacy can often leave one feeling frustrated. The bottom line is that invariably any disruptions in an organization are not welcomed even if they lead to positive outcomes. At the end of the day, the holders of power usually don’t willingly relinquish their power. In fact, demanding equitable treatment for all students should not be seen as one group losing power. When we empower all students and set all students up for success the society as a whole benefits. The society as a whole sees huge economic gains and the society is healthier, happier and safer. Having a highly educated student body where all students achieve is a no-brainer and parents must insist that their students are served in an equitable, caring and healthy and safe environment. When parents do their part and the school and the community work together for student success the entire community benefits.
In the final analysis when all is said and done, as parents, we must zealously guard our children’s educational journey and do all in our power to make sure their full potential is realized. It is only through education that our children will maximize their potential. Regardless of the pathway that the student chooses, in the end, it’s their education, this magical key that will unlock their hopes, dreams, and opportunities. So, journey with me as we ensure that all our children get the keys they need for their life’s journey. Walk Good, Belle Marché.