Advocates demand equity in education for Black students in Ontario

Over a hundred demonstrate at Toronto City Hall

March for Black students

More than 100 people gathered at Toronto city hall and at the Ontario Legislature last Saturday to demand equity in education for the province’s Black students.

At the event, demonstrators presented 10 demands that they said would help to dismantle anti-Black racism in Ontario’s education system. Black students face obstacles to achievement and are given fewer opportunities than other students to succeed, organizers said.

“The main message is Black students deserve success,” said Claudette Rutherford, an organizer of Parents of Black Children, a community advocacy group that organized the event.

“They deserve all the opportunities that every other student gets across this province and across this country.”

“We know there are quite a few disparities and obstacles to Black students’ success all across the province, but we also know there is a collusion between and among systems that makes it very difficult for Black families to succeed and we want that to end,” Rutherford added.

Kearie Daniel, a founder of Parents of Black Children, said the group organized the March for Black Students because bolder action is needed by the Ontario government to improve the school experience of Black children.

After last year’s march, Daniel said the government decided to end streaming of students in Grade 9 math and to end suspensions of students from kindergarten to Grade 3. It also amended the Ontario College of Teachers Act to include racism and discrimination as grounds for professional misconduct.

But she said the province could end streaming of students in all subjects and it could prevent in-school suspensions. She said very young Black children are still being pulled out of class and sent to the principal’s office, even if they are not being sent home. As well, individual schools are not required to report teachers who are guilty of professional misconduct based on racism.

Here are some of the demands the advocates made:

 – Reform the Ontario Education Act to identify Black students as having a right to an Africentric curriculum that represents them, managed and delivered by Black people

– Investigate education school boards that participate in “systems abuse” against Black children

– Decolonize the curriculum, which means Black experiences must be built into school curriculums and that includes such subjects as math, science and social studies

– Eliminate all streaming to ensure that Black students can reach their full potential

– Make schools across the province “police free”

 – Collect race-based data on student achievement, discipline and experiences and implement external equity audits of school boards

 – Train, hire and retain Black teachers

 – Specify how teachers who display anti-Black racism will be held accountable.

 – End what is called Socio-Emotional Learning. The group wants Education Minister Stephen Lecce to remove “racist and harmful socio-emotional learning pedagogy” from the Ontario curriculum

 – Implement a student and parent bill of rights.

Daniel said the rally and drive-by procession marked the second year that Parents of Black Children have organized such an event. Parents of Black Children is a group formed to support and advocate on behalf of Black students and their families.

The group says it works to address and dismantle anti-Black racism and systemic barriers within the education system, aiming to ensure that Black children can access an equitable and peaceful education.