Southern Ontario school boards say they’re unable to track complaints of anti-Black racism

Click to play video: 'School districts say they still lack system to tally reports of racism in classrooms'
School districts say they still lack system to tally reports of racism in classrooms
WATCH: Global News reached out to a dozen school boards around the GTHA and found that many of them have no ability to track reports of racism in their classrooms, all while Black teachers and parents continue to push for better education around racialized communities. Kamil Karamali reports – Feb 2, 2021

Many school boards across the Greater Toronto Hamilton Area say they have no ability to tally formal complaints of racism within its schools.

Global News reached out to all major public and Catholic school districts in the GTHA and those that responded claimed to have “no central tracking system” or “location from which we could pull the data.”

Seven out of 12 district schools boards responded to journalists’ requests for the number of submissions for complaints of racism for the years spanning 2018 and 2019.

Toronto District School Board said its staff are currently working on the first Human Rights Report, which would include some information related to the number of racism-related complaints from students — but that wouldn’t be available until it’s presented at the Program and School Services Committee in mid-February.

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Meanwhile, Peel District School Board says it has no tracking system available for racism-related data because ‘complaints are received by Peel schools and the board in multiple formats.”

Peel’s school board has been under fire for over more than a year after several complaints from Black students and parents about anti-Black racism occurring within its schools.

Ontario’s Ministry of Education eventually stepped in in late 2019, assigning investigators to look into allegations of anti-Black racism and then again in April of 2020 to examine the functionality of the board.

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The province eventually issued directives to PDSB in an attempt to curb instances of racism.

Kathy McDonald, a Black Peel school board trustee who led part of the movement to address change within the school district, said its schools are moving in the right direction.

“We are seeing a shift,” said McDonald. “We have a lot of staff who are no longer afraid to speak out. We have staff that are willing to learn to admit that, ‘Hey, I don’t know it all.'”

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“When (the directives are) implemented effectively, we will begin to see the disparities and disproportionate outcomes diminish for Black, African and Caribbean students and other students who have been historically underserved,” said PDSB spokesperson Tiffany Gooch.

Meanwhile, the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board said there are multiple contact points through their system of schools, which makes it difficult to track accounts of racism on a board level.

“With inconsistency regarding identification of complaints as ABR or ABIPOC and no central location from which we could pull the data you have requested, we would be challenged to meet your request,” said DPCDSB spokesperson, Bruce Campbell.

Halton District School Board had a similar reason, saying concerns of racism are normally received by the principal or vice-principal at a school and would be investigated by the school.

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“We do not have a central process for reporting incidents of  discrimination,” said HDSB communications representative Marnie Denton.

“There is no way to collect this information without surveying every school and asking school administrators to go back through their student notes for those two years. This task is not a realistic request of our administrator at the current time.”

Durham Catholic District School Board said simply that the data is not tracked centrally.

Hamilton Wentworth District School Board asked Global News to fill out a Freedom of Information (FOI) request, which allows the board 30 days to respond with a decision if they are able to gather the data or not.

Toronto Catholic District School Board also asked our reporters to fill out a FOI request.

All other school boards in the GTHA did not respond to Global News multiple requests for data on formal complaints of anti-Black racism in its schools between the two year time period.

– with files from Tiffany Mongu

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