Thames Valley District School Board trustees have unanimously approved two motion-to-address requests made by Black Lives Matter London to address racism in schools.
At Tuesday night’s board meeting, trustees approved a motion in response to the Black Lives Matter demonstrations in London and other TVDSB communities.
The motion was the work of student trustees and supported by trustee Corrine Rahman. It called for the board to develop a strategy to address racism in schools after consultations with students, guardians and other stakeholders no later than June 2021.
The motion will see anti-racism training for everyone, from students to teachers and trustees. The board will also consult both students and the community about the presence of school resource officers, and board members will encourage the ministry to look at hiring practices to have a more diverse staff.
“Ani-Black racism is a significant issue here. Although it was violence in the U.S. that raised the collective consciousness, this moment asks all of us personally to commit to change and to act,” Rahman said.
“For me personally, this has been building for the last decade from my own experience in public schools to my first experiences in the working world where, in my case, I have often been one of few minority voices.”
This comes after two London Black Lives Matter rallies saw thousands support the call to address anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism in London and within police departments.
On June 6, more than 10,000 Londoners came out in support, followed by around 1,000 this past Saturday.
In the weeks since the demonstrations, several trustees talked about each receiving more than 500 emails in support of the movement.
“This is an opportunity to amplify the voices of the students involved in Black Lives Matter and the student trustees to be heard,” Rahman said.
The Black Lives Matter London rallies were the work of five teenage girls.
During the meeting, student trustees took turns sharing countless stories of their peers’ experiences with racism, both in elementary and secondary schools, from derogatory words to discrimination being taught in class by their teachers.
“It’s clear to me we have fallen short. As we celebrate our successes, we must also recognize our shortcomings and commit to improving,” trustee Jake Skinner said.
“We play a large part in shaping the minds of our youth and the view they will hold throughout their lives. Knowing this is the case, we must acknowledge our role in perpetuating systemic racism and addressing it head-on.”
Following the first motion, Indigenous trustee Carol Antone proposed a second one calling for more Indigenous representation in schools, which was also unanimously approved.
“The First Nations, Métis and Inuit students have voiced their experiences, stories, concerns and comments relating to racism within the TVDSB for generations and generations with no action,” Antone said.
The change will see the school board consult with an Indigenous representative before releasing any statement or messaging that involves Indigenous people. TVDSB will also designate an ombudsman to hear school-related issues from Indigenous families and have Indigenous input in the hiring of any school principals where this is a notable Indigenous population.