A month-long project exploring the experiences of black students in Hamilton has found that the vast majority of youth who responded have reported experiencing racism at school.
Funded by the Ontario Ministry of Education, the Community Safety and Well-being Action Plan included eight consultation sessions on Zoom and five surveys, with participation extended to young blacks between July and September.
The report, released Wednesday, was reported by 159 black students and caregivers who spoke out about anti-black racism in schools, school safety and how the pandemic affected black students.
“A black student who experiences racism, a black student who experiences specific and punitive disciplines, a black student who struggles with disproportionate health outcomes during the pandemic is a student too many,” said Ahona Mehdi, former member of the public administration council, Ahona Mehdi, who helped create Hamilton Students For Justice, who worked on the report with the Hamilton Center for Civic Inclusion.
“These are young black students who deserve to have grown up in an educational system free from criminalization against blackness, systemic racism and trauma.”
Former student says Hamilton school board treated her racism allegations as ‘unique’
Approximately 95 percent of the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB) students surveyed and 76 percent of the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board (HWCDSB) students reported experiencing racism in the classroom. school.
Sessions and surveys were also open to young blacks from Hamilton’s publicly funded French language schools.
The experiences detailed by respondents include being subjected to racial slurs and hate speech by both students and staff, excessive discipline and surveillance, racial discrimination by prominent police liaison officers in the schools, lack of support during the pandemic, and obstacles in trying to report. anti-black racism.
Yammy Peter, a former student at St. Thomas More Catholic High School, recalled being attacked while trying to go to school while wearing a durag.
“I was considered a gang member for trying to wear a durag inside my school, which makes me uncomfortable, … being racially identified as a gang member just because I want to take care of my hair.”
The report lists eleven recommendations for publicly funded school boards, as well as the Ministry of Education, and for allowing black students to wear cultural costumes, including durags.
The student dress code is something that is being reviewed at the HWDSB since an announcement about the dress code at a Waterdown high school sparked protests and protests from students who felt unfairly targeted amid an assault investigation. sexual.
Hamilton Public School Board Updates Dress Code Policy Amid Review
Manny Figueiredo, HWDSB education director, said he supports the recommendations and appreciates the inclusion of a timeline for implementing them.
“It allows us to really work with our board of directors to say, okay, look at our current equity action plan, where are we aligned, where are there gaps?”
He also said that some of the recommendations, such as changing the dress code and hiring more black staff, can be applied locally, but others will need help from the provincial government.
Pat Daly, president of the HWCSB, said the Catholic board will study how the report’s recommendations align with the 22 recommendations from its own anti-racism education committee that it is already working to implement.
“We are going to want to carefully consider the report and… consider it integrated into other recommendations from the committee that we established. But we will study it very carefully. “
Third-party team to review governance practices at the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board
The recommendations also include a call for other Ontario boards to follow HWDSB’s lead and remove police liaison officers from schools.
Layla El-Dakhakhni, a member of Hamilton Students for Justice, said each board has a lot of work to do, including the public board.
“The fact that the HWDSB has taken some preliminary steps speaks volumes that there are statistics in our report showing that HWDSB students are still experiencing the most racism in their schools.”
In a statement accompanying the report’s release, Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce said the province will continue to “directly confront systemic and anti-black racism in Ontario schools.”
An email from a Ministry of Education spokesperson added that they will review the report’s recommendations and “continue work to better support student safety and counter anti-black racism.”
Black student alleges years of racism in Surrey schools
© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.