Following a year of consultation and community engagement by Ontario’s Ministry of Education, our government recently announced major changes to the education system that will support Black, Indigenous and racialized students. To that end, we are eliminating discretionary suspensions for students in Junior Kindergarten up to Grade 3, beginning in the upcoming school year, while maintaining suspensions for serious offences. Additionally, as of September 2021, our government will begin the process of ending early streaming into applied and academic courses, starting with the Grade 9 math curriculum.
Every student – irrespective of the colour of their skin, faith, heritage, and orientation – deserves every opportunity to succeed in the classroom, and these changes will help racialized students overcome the systemic racism and biases found in the education system.
When it comes to suspensions, the numbers speak for themselves. In the Peel District School Board, for example, which is the largest school board in Dufferin—Caledon, Black students make up 10 per cent of the student population but represent 22 per cent of the students receiving suspensions. Overall, suspension rates of Junior Kindergarten to Grade 3 students have increased in recent years, and 43 per cent of those suspended students were suspended in the “Other” infraction category, meaning the decision is usually based on the subjective discretion of the principal over issues such as perceived opposition to authority or code of conduct violations.
Students must feel accepted in a discrimination-free classroom. For that reason, our government is strengthening sanctions for behaviour and remarks by staff that are of a racist nature, and we are expanding anti-racism and anti-discrimination training for education staff, trustees and senior board staff. We know that a key component of a more equitable education system is having educators, staff and representatives who are champions of achievement opportunity for all students.
This important work to combat racism within the educational system builds on our government’s sweeping review and investigation of the Peel District School Board over allegations of racism. This year, we placed the board under supervision for non-financial reasons, which was a first in Ontario history.
Our aim throughout all of our anti-racism work within the education sector is to unlock the full potential of every child. To ensure equal opportunity is a reality for all students that leads them to higher learning, better jobs, and more positive futures. To learn more about our transformational changes within the education sector, visit my website at sylviajonesmpp.ca or call my office at 1-800-265-1603.