Lethbridge School Division passes anti-racism and anti-oppression policy

Click to play video: 'Board passes new anti-racism policy for Lethbridge School Division'
Board passes new anti-racism policy for Lethbridge School Division
Following third reading on Tuesday, the Lethbridge School Division is now looking to implement a new anti-racism and anti-oppression policy in its schools. Eloise Therien has more details and what other organizations are saying about the value of taking this step. – Sep 28, 2022

In an effort to better address racism and drive positive change, the Lethbridge School Division board passed a third-reading of Policy 103.1, Anti-Racism and Anti-Oppression.

According to a news release from LSD, the policy looks to “create an atmosphere of mutual respect, where everyone has the right to be treated fairly, equitably and with dignity and respect.”

It was passed on Tuesday.

A group of staff, including administrators from K-12 within the division, formed an anti-racism and anti-oppression committee over the last couple of years.

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“Lots of our marginalized student did feel there was racism and parts of oppression and (the committee) just really wanted to make sure that we had policy, that foundation in place that protected those students so that if there was a concern they had an avenue to go,” explained board chair Allison Purcell.

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Purcell said it was important to have a specific policy addressing these issues despite having inclusion addressed in other division literature.

“It is now everyone’s responsibility to make sure that not only do we have a policy that supports our marginalized students, but we make our actions support this important policy.”

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Purcell explained the division wasn’t mandated to develop this policy, but felt it was “the right thing to do,” following and working with  Edmonton Public Schools.

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“It is important to look at the people who are going to be relieved now that we have this policy,” said Winston Churchill High School principal Tracey Wong, who is part of the committee.

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“Our division’s support of this policy makes a clear statement and acknowledges historic and systemic racism.”

In its policy, the board said it hopes to have a positive impact not only on staff and students, but the community as a whole.

Clement Esene, executive director of the BIPOC Foundation, works to connect Black, Indigenous and People of Colour in Western Canada with supports.

He knows racism can have a large societal impact as people grow up, and he applauds the division in taking this step.

“Research has shown how (trauma like racism) can affect people psychologically, especially in their formative years,” Esene said. “It’s just a lot more work for organizations like ourselves to work with these individuals and bring them up to par mentally to say: ‘Hey guys, listen. You’re more than enough.’

“We’re looking forward to a world where we longer have to have a conversations like this, where our kids can grow up here and they can go to school, they can make friends and everybody can see each other beyond colour and all the prejudices that currently exist within our society.”

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Anastasia Sereda, a coordinator with the Southern Alberta Ethnic Association, is pleased to see this policy in place and would hope others consider following suit if they haven’t already.

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“I think anti-racism and breaking down (existing stereotypes) has to happen at an institutional and individual level,” Sereda said. “The first thing is acknowledging it exists so we can move forward in a positive direction.”

Sereda, who has been a member of the SAEA for many years, sees the value in learning and appreciating other cultures.

“It’s just a nice thing to be able to celebrate your own cultural background and learn about other people’s cultural backgrounds,” she continued. “I think it’s fun, but I also think it’s important to just understanding one another in a community generally and building stronger bonds.”

Global News also reached out to the Palliser School Division, which indicated it is also in the process of finalizing its own anti-racism and anti-oppression policy and will have updates soon.

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