June 2022 Update from Director of Education on implementation of Student Voices report
Message from the Director
Update on Implementation of the Student Voices Report
In April 2021, the Halton District School Board received a written complaint of longstanding and ongoing systemic discrimination experienced by Black students. The letter, penned by two graduating students, was intended to bring to light some of the experiences that had tainted their time in school, and to chart a path toward more positive experiences for students still in the Board.
The student’s letter provided an opportunity for the Board to affirm its commitment to ensuring inclusive, equitable and safe spaces for all students and staff through the inclusion of goals and strategies to intentionally confront racism in our schools and workplaces in the
Multi-Year Plan 2020-2024. Further, it provided an opportunity to emphasize elements of the Board’s
Human Rights Equity Action & Accountability Plan:The Way Forward which outlines specific actions designed to dismantle systems of oppression that exist within our schools and workplaces.
In response to the letter, the Board held a series of focus groups seeking student insights on their experiences of racism and existing board strategies to respond. In December 2021, the Board released the
Student Voices Report summarizing student experiences of racism and the HDSB’s strengthened commitments to anti-racism.
At this time, we would like to provide an update on the implementation, monitoring and assessment of the new, existing and renewed commitments regarding anti-racism.
The Student Voices Report identified the following four themes and related, existing, new and strengthened commitments:
- Theme 1: Identify, Deconstruct and Recognize Microaggressions
- Theme 2: Accountability (of staff and students)
- Theme 3: Harmful Impact
- Theme 4: Education and Enhanced Awareness
Following these four themes, this high level update on the work and change impact that we have been engaged in since the release of the Student Voices report focuses broadly on two areas: Education and Enhanced Awareness; and Accountability. It is recognized that there is an interconnectedness between strategies to identify and eliminate racism: this is not piecemeal or isolated work but requires strategic focus and implementation by various components of the school board.
Key Report Themes, Substantive Actions and Next Steps:
Education and Enhanced Awareness
Halton District School Board staff have engaged in substantive learning and awareness raising related to:
- Understanding systems of oppression; how they operate and their impact on teaching and learning environments
- Recognizing identity and the intersectionality of one’s identity; how it informs and impacts one’s ability to effectively navigate the school system
- Applying Culturally Relevant and Responsive Pedagogy (CRRP) and anti-colonial classroom strategies in curricular materials (teaching and assessment)
- Facilitated monthly sessions for school Human Rights and Equity Advocates. More than 100 school-based staff were engaged in each session
- Delivered a dozen professional development sessions on addressing racism for school staff across the system
- Numerous presentations for students, affirming Black identity
- Formation of the first HDSB Student Equity Committee to encourage solution-oriented dialogue between the Board and student reps to address issues of racism, discrimination, and various other inequities that impact student experiences.
- Continuing to ensure that teaching and leadership practices are reflective of the learning of anti-oppression and anti-racism (e.g., Staff Meetings, New Teacher Induction Program Training, etc.)
- Introduction of Graduation Coach for Black Students program which has interfaced with approximately 200 students this Spring.
Accountability (of Staff and Students).
The Halton District School Board has taken steps towards ameliorating the impact of discrimination and/or discriminatory practices by improving and creating accountability measures such as:
- Applying the
Discriminatory & Harmful Language Protocol so as to interrupt, educate about and correct inappropriate language school and classroom accountability for language: teachers and educators have tools to be responsive; students have raised awareness of impact of speech
- Revising the
Selection of Instructional and Library Resources Administrative Procedure. This procedure has been developed to ensure that school experiences are positive, inclusive, equitable, and non-discriminatory. It also aims to provide clear direction and re-centre the lived experiences, culture, and social identities of learners who have been harmed by the use of past resources that perpetuate negative stereotypes and promote deficit thinking
- Creating a
Human Rights & Equity Advisory Committee (HREAC) with representation from parents/guardians, the community and HDSB staff members to propose and respond to human rights and equity initiatives that support the HDSB focus on student achievement and well-being.
As we look to September 2022, we are committed to continuing to centre student voices and address gaps and disparities identified in the
HDSB Student Census. The Student Census findings will help the HDSB and our schools to:
Moving forward, we will continue to collectively develop targeted awareness strategies and to identify systemic and responsive actions to address racism and anti-oppression in the Halton District School Board.
- fully understand the needs of all students and families to support student success and well-being
- identify and eliminate discriminatory practices, systemic barriers and bias in order to ensure equitable opportunities and outcomes
- and allocate resources to support students and programs where the need is greatest.
Thank you for continuing on this journey with us.
Director of Education
Halton District School Board
Spring 2021 Focus Groups
The HDSB conducted virtual focus groups with secondary students (Grade 9-12) in Spring 2021 to gather student insight into the Board’s current response to racism in schools. Gathering this information supports the Board’s ongoing accountability to its equity goals, as outlined in the
2020-2024 Multi-Year Plan and the
Human Rights Equity Action & Accountability Plan: The Way Forward. The focus groups were hosted virtually across each of the four municipalities in Halton.
As a Board we are invested in learning more about how well students feel we have responded to incidents of racism in our schools. The information and insights received through the focus groups were reviewed and a report has been developed by HDSB staff in the Indigenous Rights & Education, Human Rights & Equity and Research departments along with the Board’s
Human Rights & Equity Advisor, which highlights existing and strengthened commitments to guide and inform a plan of action and enhanced accountability to address racism.
Report: Student Voices: Student Experiences of Racism & HDSB’s Strengthened Commitments to Anti-Racism Report